Boy, 8, Critical After Car Eluding Police Crashes
On June 28, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that an eight-year-old boy had been placed on life support after a stolen Dodge Challenger, pursued by police, crashed into the Dodge Charger in which he was riding. The collision occurred shortly after 2:40 p.m., Monday, June 27, at the intersection of Boat Rock Road and Fulton Industrial Park. Two other children and two adults were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. This disturbing crash brings up two important issues: how to keep children safe in traffic, and whether police have liability for crashes that result from police pursuits.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, children age 14 and under, who represented 19 percent of the U.S. population in 2012, accounted for three percent of all traffic fatalities that year. In the decade from 2003 to 2012, traffic deaths among this age group dropped a remarkable 45 percent. This decline seems to be linked to safe driving practices, such as the increased use of seat belts and other restraints, as well as having younger children ride exclusively in the back seat. Among children killed in 2012, 40 percent were not restrained. We do not know whether the seriously injured boy was wearing a seat belt and riding in the back seat at the time of the crash, but if so, the parents can at least know they’d done what they could to keep him safe.
Are the police liable when a pursuit results in an accident?
As for potential police liability due to the chase, police generally have immunity from liability for accidents that occur during the performance of their duties. However, if the police are negligent in their procedure, governmental immunity may be waived. An injured party would have to prove the police disregarded safe practices and put the public unnecessarily at risk when deciding to initiate a pursuit or not to terminate a pursuit when it became too dangerous. Factors the police must consider include:
- The risk to the public and the officers
- The nature of the offense
- The availability of safer alternatives
- Protection of the public
- Density of the population in the pursuit area
- How weather, road and traffic conditions might impact the pursuit
When the risk of the chase outweighs the danger to the community if the suspect is not apprehended immediately, police should discontinue the pursuit. However, the facts cited in the AJC story do not suggest negligence by the police.
McMenamy Law LLC represents victims of motor vehicle accidents throughout Georgia. If you’ve been seriously injured in a car crash, contact us right away to schedule a free consultation.