Police officers in Texas serve their respective communities by preventing crime and enforcing state laws. However, it’s not unusual to see a uniformed officer abusing their position by practicing dangerous driving habits, such as speeding, making illegal turns, and even participating in distracted driving behaviors. Of course, sometimes law enforcement officials are pressured or encouraged to break state traffic laws if it means catching a culprit or saving lives. But what happens when a police officer is responsible for a car accident?
A serious traffic collision can result in adverse physical and cognitive injuries, tragic fatalities, and extensive property damage. When a patrol vehicle is involved in an accident, there are many liability issues that can impact the outcome a plaintiff’s claim. For example, an at-fault officer may be exempt from certain traffic laws while responding to an emergency situation. Because there are so many contingencies and exceptions associated with these types of cases, it’s critical that you discuss your circumstances with a qualified car accident attorney before filing a claim.
You can protect your right to damages by taking these steps after a car collision involving a police vehicle:
- Make sure all parties are safe and unharmed.
- Call 911 and request emergency assistance.
- Do not admit or imply fault, even if the officer is trying to intimidate you.
- Take pictures of the accident scene (including license plate numbers).
- Write down the cop’s name and badge number.
- Note the names and phone numbers of any witnesses.
- Seek immediate medical treatment.
- Contact an experienced attorney to review your legal options.
Accidents involving police vehicles are not handled like typical car collisions. Because police officers are protected by their city’s insurance policy, the claims process tends to take longer, and lawyers need to continually pressure representatives if they want to secure a favorable settlement.
Determining Fault After an Accident Involving a Police Vehicle
One of the most important steps in any liability case is collecting evidence that proves the at-fault party is responsible for a plaintiff’s injuries. For example, if a police officer runs a red light and collides into another vehicle, that officer should be considered at-fault for the accident. A lawyer can prove this fact by collecting witness testimonies, requesting cam footage of the accident, exhibiting pictures of the accident scene, etc.
In Texas, police officers have been known to cause accidents after committing the following traffic violations:
- Failing to signal
- Illegal turns and U-turns
- Running red lights and stop signs
- Driving the wrong way
- Failing to yield the right-of-way
Although police officers are exempt from certain traffic laws when responding to emergency situations, the Texas Transportation Code “does not exempt the operator of an authorized emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway.” In other words, a police officer can still be held negligent for an accident even if their sirens were on when the incident occurred.
Like all drivers, police officers need to observe a duty of care when operating a patrol car. This standard of care includes:
- Driving responsibly and in consideration of other drivers
- Watching for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vehicles.
- Operating the vehicle at a responsible speed.
- Obeying state traffic laws, with exceptions.
Another reason why these cases are so difficult is because a plaintiff may have grounds to hold multiple parties responsible for their injuries. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, you may be able to file a claim against the law enforcement agency, the city, and even the state of Texas.
You may be able to recover the following damages by filing a personal injury or wrongful death claim:
- Existing and projected medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of consortium
Have You Been Injured by a Negligent Patrol Officer? Schedule a Consultation Today.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident caused by a negligent law enforcement officer, it’s critical that you retain experienced legal representation as quickly as possible. At The Stewart Law Firm, PLLC, our attorneys have the skills and resources to effectively investigate your case and litigate on your behalf both in and out of court. No matter the complexity of your case, you can trust our legal team to help you secure a settlement or verdict that reflects your personal, legal, and financial objectives.
We provide legal services 24/7. Call The Stewart Law Firm, PLLC at (512) 271-5112 to schedule a free, no-risk consultation.