Updated May 3, 2023 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff
A crash involving a police officer is very different from a “normal” car accident. Filing a personal injury lawsuit for a car crash usually involves an auto insurance policy, but in the case of a police car accident, many government entities self-insure for accidents. This makes the claims process different from most other auto accidents, so having an experienced lawyer on your side will help with the process of getting the compensation you deserve.
The one similarity between all auto accidents, regardless if the police car causes the accident, are actions to take immediately after an accident. Following an accident:
Since the crash involves a police officer, feeling intimidated is normal. Remember, neither the police officer involved nor the officer who fills out the police report decides who is at-fault. The court decides who is at fault based on evidence presented.
In any car accident case, fault needs to be determined. It needs to be decided if you hit the police, or if the police hit your car. This is proven by presenting evidence to a court about the accident. If the officer’s driving was negligent and not adhering to the law, there could be a case; however, there may be an emergency vehicle exemption depending on the circumstances.
The answer depends on what the police officer was doing at the time. What happens if a police officer rear ends you if they were responding to an emergency? The accident they caused may not hold up in court depending on the context of the situation.
Indiana Code 9-21-1-8 states the exceptions in situations for when you may file a lawsuit against police for a car accident. If the officer was a.) responding to an emergency call; b.) in pursuit of a convict or suspected law violator; or c.) in response to a fire alarm (not returning), they are working within the parameters of their duty. If the officer is involved in these situations, they are allowed to:
Each case is different, so before ruling out your chances, consult an attorney for advice.
IC Code 9-21-1-8 also states that the officer driving is not relieved from their duty as a citizen to drive with caution and to care for the safety of others. The IC does not protect a police officer from the consequences of their actions if the officer was driving recklessly or disregarding their surroundings. The police officer could be considered negligent if their driving behavior led to an accident, such as a police car hitting a pedestrian in certain situations.
Indiana uses the fault system for auto insurance in normal cases, but police cars are often covered by government entities. If you get hit by a police car, there is unfortunately not an automatic “hit by police car insurance” that covers damages.
It is the Indiana government that insures police cars. Making an insurance claim or filing a lawsuit against any government entity, which includes police officers, can be difficult. Under the Indiana Tort Claims Act, police officers can be protected from lawsuits. However, if it is found that the officer was acting outside the scope of their job duties, they may be found liable for their actions.
Under Indiana Code 34, you need to file a claim to whichever entity the officer works for within 270 days of the accident.
The statement you submit needs to include:
Within 90 days of filing a claim, the police officer’s place of work will send you an approval or denial of your claim. If the office denies your claim, you have the right to file a lawsuit. The lawsuit will most likely happen in a civil court. Contact an experienced attorney for help in negotiating the next steps.
Indiana uses the fault system of auto insurance, meaning insurance companies pay damages depending on the degree of fault each person holds in the accident. A car accident settlement may follow, and if that is not settled, taking the lawsuit to court is the next step.
When dealing with government entities as defendants, the process does not give as much leeway in degree of fault. Unlike with usual auto accidents, Indiana tort law disregards comparative law. Instead, contributory negligence applies, meaning if any part of the accident puts you at fault, you cannot receive compensation. You need to have solid evidence for your case that shows the police officer is at fault and that you did not cause the accident.
Filing a lawsuit against a police officer differs from “normal” car crash cases. If you find yourself in this position, it’s best to have a lawyer on your side who is experienced in this field. The Indianapolis car accident lawyers at Wilson Kehoe Winingham can direct you in proceeding with a case when you wish to file a lawsuit against the police for any car accident, regardless who is at fault. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
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