High-Speed Police Chase Kills Two Children
Two young boys, an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old, were killed in a fireball collision triggered by a high-speed police chase on Interstate 805.
After a chase that lasted less than five minutes, California Highway Patrol says a 20-year-old hit-and-run suspect crashed his car into another vehicle at the off-ramp of Interstate 805 at 43rd Street. CHP says the second car rolled down a hill into a tree, which then landed on the car, and was engulfed in flames.
“I think we should all be outraged and disgusted that this situation arose,” Will Moore, from the community group Circulate San Diego, said. Circulate San Diego believes police pursuits for low-level crimes are not worth the risk.
San Diego Police Department policy states that when officers are deciding whether or not to chase after a driver, they need to weigh the balance of public safety with the known or suspected offense. Furthermore, officers have “the responsibility to terminate the pursuit when the benefits of immediate apprehension are outweighed by the hazards of continuing the pursuit.”
Sometimes, to keep us safe, police officers must violate traffic laws. They might drive with their lights off at night or exceed the posted speed limit. However, no one, not even a police officer, is completely above the law.
If a high-speed chase injures or kills a suspect or bystander, a Carlsbad auto accident lawyer may obtain compensation, if an attorney proves extreme recklessness, which in this context is basically ignoring the safety of the people officers swear to keep safe. Some factors to consider include:
- Nature of the offense (violent or nonviolent),
- Length of the pursuit,
- Area’s makeup (industrial, commercial, or residential),
- Time of day, and
- Amount of foot and vehicle traffic.
Police officers are well aware of these restrictions. However, in the heat of the moment, the overriding need to “catch the bad guy” pushes this awareness to the back of their minds.
Police officer extreme recklessness overcomes the official immunity defense. This same defense usually shields police officers from civil or criminal liability in controversial shooting cases.
Other procedural hurdles apply in these cases. The notice of claim rule is a good example. If a government employee, like a municipal bus driver or police officer, recklessly injures someone, a Carlsbad personal injury lawyer must file a notice of claim prior to filing court paperwork. This notice allows the responsible government entity to investigate the claim and settle it quietly before the matter hits the headlines.
Some jurisdictions have strict anti-chase policies. A violation of such a policy is evidence of recklessness.
Most jurisdictions, like San Diego, have vague anti-chase policies. When officers “weigh” factors, they usually give themselves the benefit of the doubt, mostly because of the aforementioned get-the-bad-guy adrenaline rush.
Vague policies are toss-ups. In court, a jury could rule the officers violated the policy. Then again, the jury could just as easily reach the opposite conclusion.
The lower burden of proof in civil court (a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not) sometimes comes into play. The victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof to establish a policy violation. The civil burden of proof is easier to meet than the criminal burden, which is beyond any reasonable doubt.
Most jurors side with victims in these situations, not only because of the burden of proof, but also because high-speed police chases are unnecessary. Officers can easily tag fleeing suspects with GPS locators and apprehend them later when circumstances are safer.
Connect With a Diligent San Diego County Lawyer
Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Carlsbad, contact the Pursley Law Firm. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.