Fatal Kansas City car crash leads to policy change, potential liability
According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 10 million car accidents occur every year on American roads and highways. When there is a car accident, someone has usually done something wrong - made a driving error, failed to properly secure a load or succumbed to distracted driving, for instance. The driver responsible for causing an accident, or his or her insurer, can typically be held financially accountable for resulting damages.
In some cases, more than one party bears responsibility for causing a crash. While law enforcement officers have broad discretion in executing their duties, a recent tragic Kansas City car accident shows the kind of instance in which the police could potentially bear some responsibility for a crash.
Young girl killed when suspect being pursued crashed into her mother's vehicle
On April 9, a Kansas City Police officer pulled over a suspect for an observed seatbelt violation. When ordered out of his vehicle, the suspect sped off.
The officer radioed in to get approval to chase, and after receiving it, followed in pursuit. The chase was short lived; just 37 seconds after it began, the suspect ran a red light and slammed into a van carrying a mother and her three children.
Tragically, one of the children, an 8-year-old girl, was killed. The rest of the occupants of the van were taken to the hospital with serious injuries. The suspect was also hospitalized.
In response to the crash, the department has temporarily suspended chases except in instances involving serious felonies. The department will also revise its chase policies.
Over the last year, there have been four fatal car accidents in the Kansas City metro area that have involved a police chase.
Police liability is challenging to prove
All drivers owe a duty of safety to others on the road. The suspect in a police chase, if driving carelessly, may be held financially responsible for injury and property damage resulting from a crash.
But what about police liability in a chase? Officers do have broad powers in executing their duties, and may drive aggressively within the scope of these duties without incurring liability. While things like speeding or excessive acceleration may be enough to cause liability to attach to most drivers, a police officer who violates some of the normal rules of the road in the execution of his or her duties might not incur liability when a crash results.
Still, the decision to initiate a police chase involves a careful balancing of the risk to the police and the public versus the harm that could result from a suspect not being immediately caught. If a pursuit of a suspect involves reckless disregard for the public's safety, police may face legal claims from any innocent bystanders who are injured.
Whoever caused your crash, a lawyer can help you collect the compensation you are due
If you have been involved in a car accident in Kansas City, it is relatively unlikely that a police chase was involved. But, this is just one example of how parties can bear responsibility for a car crash.
You may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and property damage if you were injured by a negligent driver or some other negligent party whose action or inaction contributed to the crash. Get in touch with a Kansas City car accident lawyer today to explore your legal options if you have been harmed in a crash.