Reckless High-Speed Police Chase Kills One, Injures One
One person is dead, and another one seriously injured, after Pasco County Sheriff’s Deputies relentlessly pursued a man who may have done nothing wrong.
Initially, deputies received conflicting reports about an incident at an area convenience store. One witness stated that the suspect had placed a woman in a headlock. Another witness claimed that he forced the woman into a vehicle and fled the scene. Deputies assumed the second witness was accurate and they pursued the man as he travelled the wrong way on State Road 54. After he crashed head-on into a pickup truck, both vehicles erupted into a fireball. The initial man was killed almost instantly. The pickup driver was rushed to a nearby hospital with second-degree burns. The woman was nowhere to be found.
While noting that the deceased had a criminal record involving assaults, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco defended his deputies’ actions. “When they were pursuing, they were pursuing thinking she was in the vehicle,” he offered.
High Speed Police Chases in Tampa
As far back as the 1990s, the federal government advised local law enforcement agencies to ban, or at least sharply limit, high-speed pursuits. Each year, these incidents kill and seriously injure far more people than police shootings. Moreover, the casualties from police chases outnumber the casualties in hurricanes, floods, and all other kinds of natural disasters.
But for the most part, most agencies still allow these pursuits. On the record, officers usually point out that they cannot pick and choose where and when to enforce laws. Off the record, they typically admit that the adrenaline rush in “getting the bad guy” is simply too tempting to refuse.
A number of devices, such as portable tire spikes and advanced GPS tracking devices, are currently available. These gadgets largely obviate the need to pursue suspects at high speeds. Yet there is little indication that police departments will abandon their pursue-at-all-costs policies.
Your Claim for Damages
As emergency responders, police officers have a great deal of immunity in these situations. They obviously do not have to stop at stop signs, obey speed limits, and observe most other rules of the road. However, this immunity is not unlimited. If officers recklessly pursue suspects, victims may have legal claims for damages.
If officers recklessly pursue speeders or parking violators, these chases are clearly reckless. If officers pursue armed terrorists, these chases are clearly not reckless. Most fall somewhere in the middle. So, the court may consider a number of factors, including:
- Time of day,
- Severity of the offense,
- Threat to others,
- Amount of traffic, and
- Length of pursuit.
The court may also consider standing an ad hoc policies about not pursuing suspects. If officers disobey these instructions, such action is basically a presumption of negligence.
Damages in these cases usually include compensation for both economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Furthermore, since a government entity is involved, these claims are procedurally different from ordinary negligence claims.
Contact Tenacious Lawyers
Police officers may be liable for damages in high-speed police chase cases. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Tampa, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.