Injuries from Wild Police Chases in California - Adamson Ahdoot

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High-Speed Police Chases Cause Collateral Damage

June 21, 2023 María López Garcia
Home » Blog » High-Speed Police Chases Cause Collateral Damage

Half of the LAPD Pursuit Victims are Pedestrians, and 25% of All Cases End with Injuries or Death

The law aims to protect citizens against illegal and unlawful actions. But, what if some of the imprudent and reckless behavior is coming from law enforcement officers? While there must be a balancing act that fights between right and wrong, constant police pursuits are negatively affecting residents. The data is not deceiving. Wild police chases in California contribute to the high number of victims injured or killed. Especially in Los Angeles, where the figures are higher than in other cities.

The question is, to what extent does the pursuit of a suspect violate basic fundamental rights? While the police must be able to do their job, they also have a duty of care: to protect the innocent. Lately, investigations by private media and government agencies have exposed a problem that has been troubling communities for several years: high-speed police chases. As we will see below, the consequences of these actions endanger those on public roads and in residential areas, threatening the health of many people.

Nationally, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that about 250,000 high-speed police chases occur each year. Of all incidents, between 6,000 and 8,000 end in collisions. Approximately 500 people are killed in these crashes and more than 5,000 suffer minor or serious injuries. While the national data does not sound extremely alarming, police pursuits in states like California yield particularly troubling numbers, particularly in Los Angeles. In fact, between 1996 and 2015, California was the state with the most police pursuit-related fatalities with 827.

Statistics of Police Chases in Los Angeles & California

According to LAPD protocol, officers may initiate a pursuit in Los Angeles in response to an alleged felony or misdemeanor offense, such as reckless driving or driving under the influence of alcohol. And while the agency has been trying for years to reduce the collateral impact of civilian chases, a report requested by the Board of Police Commissioners has revealed that this data is still very troubling.

To get a better perspective on the severity of the issue, let’s look at the statistics on the police chases conducted in Los Angeles between 2006 and 2014. During this period, 334 bystanders were injured as a result of collisions stemming from pursuits. That is an average of 37 victims per year. This means that one in ten police actions resulted in injury or death.

In 2015, this trended upward as the highest number of injuries and fatalities in a decade were recorded: there were 78 bystanders affected in 527 pursuits. The previous highest figure was in 2005, with 61 in 345 police vehicle responses. In 2016, an LA Times analysis corroborated the progressive increase in incidents. They noted that LAPD caused twice as many injuries to bystanders as other cities in the state.

There are an average of 23 police chases per day in California.

Recent Impact of Police Pursuits in Los Angeles

The most recent detailed report shared by the LAPD in 2023 analyzes the impact of pursuits since 2018. Over the past five years, the total number of police chases in the Los Angeles area was 4,203. This is an average of 840 per year. Compared to 2015, there has been a more than 37% increase in police responses and victims involved.

Since 2018, more than 4,200 pursuits caused nearly 1,600 motor vehicle incidents. Of these, 25% resulted in injury or death: specifically, 1032 victims. In addition, 49% of the collisions involved a third party – in other words, a pedestrian not connected to the event. In total, it has been estimated that 496 of the collisions involved innocent bystanders, with five fatalities.

Sixty-four percent of the crashes occurred when the chase vehicles were traveling at high speeds: between 41 and 80 mph.

Liability After a Police Chase

Section 1983 of the U.S. Civil Rights Act, passed in 1871, established two clear points: first, to eradicate oppressive government conduct; second, to protect state and federal agencies and workers. Since then, government entities such as the police are protected by sovereign immunity. However, this does not mean that they cannot be sued in cases of negligence. States like California have taken steps to hold any public worker who commits any type of negligence accountable. In 2021, the Golden State introduced a new BS2 Act into its statute that limits the use of such qualified immunity under federal power.

Also, California traffic laws do not exempt officers responsible for high-speed pursuits from prosecution. California Vehicle Code 17000 states that a “public entity may be liable for injury, death or property damage if the officer acted improperly or negligently.”

Since 1979, more than 5,000 bystanders and vehicle occupants have been killed in wild police chases in California.

Potential Victims Affected by Cop Chases

Being injured in a law enforcement pursuit can manifest itself in many different ways. Typically, a victim is injured following police car chases. Many of these police chases are on video and can be found online.

  • The victim was driving a vehicle and was hit or struck during a police pursuit.
  • A person was walking down the street when he/she sustained injuries after being hit by a police vehicle or by the offender being pursued.
  • The victim was detained inside the police vehicle when the injury incident occurred.

When Do the Cops Participate in a Chase? Can the Police Chase Motorcycles?

Typically, California law enforcement agencies have their policies on when to pursue or not pursue a suspect. These entities will base their decisions on several different aspects: the level of danger, weather conditions, traffic density, events in the area, or the type of vehicle. According to the Official Law Enforcement Guide developed by the State of California, a pursuit is initiated under Vehicle Code $17004 and Penal Code $13519. These highlight two main points when pursuing a suspect fleeing at high speed in a vehicle:

  1. Officers should have basic vehicle training to perform dangerous maneuvers.
  2. Recognize the threat to the public and assess whether it is worthwhile to initiate a pursuit, weighing the magnitude of the crime, and the potential negative consequences for innocent bystanders.

In addition, the California Highway Patrol report identifies the “four fundamental violations” that lead drivers to attempt to flee from police and thus result in police chases in California: speeding, stolen vehicle, lack of registration or license plate, or traffic violations such as running a stop sign or red light.

Holding the Police Accountable After a Police Chases Today

Victims will need to file a Section 1983 lawsuit. However, this is not a straightforward legal process. As mentioned above, government employees are well protected. Because of this immunity, it is paramount that you contact an attorney experienced in this field. Liability under that statute requires proof of more than negligence. With the help of a legal specialist in lawsuits against public entities and workers, you will be able to prove that the police acted recklessly in their pursuit or took actions that harmed the victim.

Therefore, as we discussed in the previous section, the police must intervene in wild police chases in California after weighing that the potential risks to the public do not involve unreasonable danger. If they fail to do so and end up injuring many victims, the officer involved in the pursuit and his or her agency may be held accountable to some extent.

Can I Sue the Individual Responsible for the Police Pursuit?

Any reckless, reckless, or negligent driving that causes an accident with sequels is grounds for a legal claim. Especially if it has caused injury or death. When this occurs, the defendant driver has safely breached the duty of care. And, as a result, caused several personal injuries and other losses.

California Statute of Limitations: How Long Do I Have to File a Police Pursuit Injury Claim?

As a victim or family member of a person killed due to high-speed and wild police chases in California, the time allowed to file a claim is six months starting from the time the incident occurred. First, you must file a formal complaint with the police agency that was involved. If they don’t provide you with a financial settlement within six months, you may file a federal lawsuit in civil court.

Types of Compensation for Motor Vehicle Accident Injuries

Although filing a claim after a police chase may seem convoluted or complex, it is possible to seek damages. As in any accident involving personal injury or property damage victims, the possibilities for compensation are varied. Some of the potential recovery options due to high-speed police chases in California are:

  • Medical expenses. Treatment of injuries resulting from the accident can be very costly – as well as painful. Depending on the severity of the incident, the type of treatment for injuries varies. It can range from surgeries to physical therapy for a long period.
  • Property damage. Any property that was damaged during the incident may be claimed. This includes anything from a vehicle to damage to a home.
  • Loss of future income. If the injury prevents you from going to work, either temporarily or indefinitely due to a permanent disability, then you are entitled to claim for future earnings.
  • Pain and suffering. Accidents can leave both physical and psychological wounds. Distress, stress, or anxiety are all potential mental injuries. These can impact the future quality of life, which is why you may be entitled to compensation.
  • Wrongful death. In the event of the death of a family member, many types of compensation can be claimed. From pain and suffering to the cost of medical care until the family member died, funeral expenses, or loss of financial support.

Seeking Compensation for Injuries Caused by Wild High-Speed Police Chases in California?

Today, California citizens are not surprised by the number of cop chases that occur in the state. And, although many police chases are on video, Californians still have many questions about them: How can a police chase happen today? Can the police chase you to another state? Can I get compensation if I am injured in one of the wild police chases that take place in California?

At Adamson Ahdoot, we take personal injury cases involving police misconduct very seriously. Being hurt because of someone’s irresponsible act should have significant legal repercussions. Even if the police are at fault. While it may seem like a complicated process, if you work with experienced, top-notch attorneys, you will come out ahead.

Our experts are dedicated to fighting for the civil rights of citizens. We will investigate your case and gather as much evidence as possible to ensure that your compensation is fair and satisfactory. With more than 100 years of combined legal experience, we are one of the most prestigious personal injury law firms in California.

Need a consultation to learn more about your legal options? If you have been injured in a police pursuit accident in Los Angeles, or elsewhere in California, we can help. Call (800) 310-1606 today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

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