When people intentionally break the law, they take a risk that they will get caught and arrested by law enforcement. Sometimes, individuals will violently resist arrest when the police confront them. Other times, people will desperately try to flee from the police.
Innocent civilians sometimes get caught up in a police chase with devastating consequences. A pedestrian could get struck by someone trying to drive their vehicle away from the scene. A driver could get into a crash with a fleeing criminal or the police officers chasing them. Bystanders can also get hurt from stray bullets in gunfire or other inadvertent physical altercations.
Who is responsible for the injuries that an innocent member of the public suffers during a police pursuit?
The person fleeing may have some liability
Under Texas law, people can file personal injury claims against someone who hurts them due to omissions, negligence or misconduct. State law makes it a crime to flee from the police, which means that someone who hurts you while trying to avoid arrest is potentially liable for your injuries or any property damage that they caused.
The police could also be liable
A lawsuit against someone who will spend the next few decades in prison may not help you very much. Police officers or their departments can sometimes also be accountable for the injuries caused during a pursuit, especially if their pursuit violated best practices.
The U.S. Supreme Court has recently determined that police officers should reconsider continuing a hot pursuit in scenarios involving misdemeanor, non-violent offenses and uninvolved members of the public or their property. Police officers choosing to continue a hot pursuit that doesn’t meet appropriate legal standards could find themselves facing allegations of negligence and possibly liability for any injuries they cause.
Determining liability is inherently context specific. A personal injury attorney with an understanding of both civil and criminal law can help you understand who has responsibility for your injuries – and can help you seek compensation in court.