Police Driving and Liability
Police Liability and Police Driving go hand in hand As a police officer, I've seen first hand how police officers can get sued for the simplest things, and one of those things are simply speeding to calls to try and help. On one hand, you of course want to get there as quickly as possible to help. The problem is however is if you hurt someone getting there, you're liable. This liability is much larger then one might think as well. For example, lets say you're simply doing 10 over the speed limit while en route to a routine call, say a domestic call for instance (a live together couple arguing or fighting). While en route, a 7-year old runs out in front of your cruiser, and you hit him or her. You didn't have your emergency lights on, because you simply don't put them on for these type of calls (and even if you did, it really wouldn't matter much). The point is, an investigation is done and they determine that you were speeding, unjustifiably. You've now been hung out to dry.
So you're put at fault, and you're now legally liable. Who cares about the internal discipline, because the criminal charges and civil liability that are coming make the internal discipline look like a ride in the park. Back to the point...if you're charged, you have to hire a criminal attorney. The reason for this is, if you're put at fault by your department, they do not have to get you an attorney (unless your Union agrees to flip the bill on your behalf, which they don't have to). But hypothetically, or based on the worse case scenario, if you do have to pay for your own attorney because they said you were liable, you're easily looking at an immediate $10,000 up front.
Now lets talk about the civil lawsuit. Now you have to find a civil attorney which could mean another $10,000 up front just for them. Remember, this is all for going 10 MPH over the speed limit, while going to a call to "help" someone. I think most officers, generally, do 10 over going to standard calls. The wiser offers however now stick to the rules as they've learned "it isn't worth it." But anyway, now you're in civil court. The theatrics that are involved are just amazing as they make you look like the worst person in the world. Yes, its unfortunate, very unfortunate that a kid was hit, but now you will have to pay for it. You are liable.
The lesson here is, make sure you know your department's policy on exceeding the limit. If you act outside your department's policies, you expose yourself to personal liability. This liability can be huge, higher then one would think. Your department isn't going to flip the bill if they don't have to.
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