Can I sue the police for hitting my car during a police chase?

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”

— George Bernard Shaw

Caveat: this is a complicated matter with many qualifications.

You can’t sue the police for hitting your car during a police chase if 1) the police officer is using sirens and flashing lights; and 2) the officer is driving with “due regard” for the safety of others. You may, however, be able to sue the city that employs the police officer if the officer failed to drive with due regard.

Let’s talk about the city first. There’s a rule, then an exception, then an exception to that exception, and then an exception to that exception. Fun, right?

Rule

A city is a public entity. Public entities are generally immune from suit (Gov Code section 815(a)).

Exception

Public entities, however, are liable for the negligent act of their employees (Gov Code section 815.2(a))

Exception to Exception

Public entities are immune when their employees are immune, except as otherwise provided by statute (Gov Code section 815.2(b)).

Exception to Exception to Exception

A city is liable for a police officer’s negligent driving (CA Veh Code 17001).

The bottom line is that a city is liable for an officer’s negligent driving if the officer drove without “due regard.” Now a word about police officers and “due regard.”

The police are public employees. Public employees are generally not immune from suit (Gov Code section 820(a)).

But a police officer is immune from liability for bodily injury or property damage caused during a police chase (CA Veh Code section 17004). The officer is excused from following certain traffic rules while in pursuit if the officer is using sirens and flashing lights. Liability cannot be imposed on the officer for negligence arising from speeding or running red lights (CA Veh Code section 21055). The officer, however, must still drive “with due regard for the safety of all persons…” (CA Veh Code section 21056). The officer is not allowed to drive with impunity.

In conclusion,  you should not be able to sue the police for hitting you car during a police chase because of CA Veh Code section 17004.

But if there are facts showing that the officer drove without “due regard,” you can likely sue the city under CA Veh Code section 17001.

Whew, glad that’s done.

Questions? Contact Me for a free consultation.

 

 

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