Posted on May 23, 2018 in General
Police officers have a duty to protect and serve the communities they patrol. They’re also human, which means they’re capable of negligence that might lead to a car accident. So, what happens when a police officer causes a car accident? Can you sue the department for damages? Shouldn’t a police officer be accountable for any damage he or she causes because of negligence? The simple answer is: It depends. Learn about car accident claims and Florida law, as well as when you might be able to file a claim against a police officer for damages.
Is the Police Officer at Fault for the Accident?
Determining fault in an accident requires proof of the following four elements:
- That the police officer owed a duty of care to the motorist. Under Florida law, motorists owe a duty of care to all others on the road – and this rule also applies to police officers.
- The police officer breached his or her duty of care (committed negligence). Generally, negligence occurs when a motorist breaks a traffic law. Examples include speeding, distracted driving, or failure to assure a safe distance.
- The officer’s breach of duty caused your injuries.
- You suffered harm as a result (medical bills, lost wages, or physical pain, for example).
If you can provide proof of all these elements, they form the basis of a negligence claim, whether against a civilian or a police officer. However, a couple of caveats may affect your claim to compensation.
Florida’s No-Fault Insurance System
Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to car accidents. This means you will rely on your own policy to cover your medical expenses, regardless of who was at fault for an accident. You may step outside the no-fault system and file a claim against an at-fault driver when you incur a permanent bodily injury. Examples include:
- Threat of permanent injury with reasonable medical probability
- Threat or presence of permanent disfigurement
- Significant impairment of a major body system or organ
If one of these applies to your car accident, you may be able to file a claim against an at-fault driver. This brings us, however, to the next caveat:
Claims Against the Government
A claim against a police officer on duty will likely become a claim against the municipality itself (or whoever the employs the police officer). Employees of state agencies, such as the state police department, are immune from civil lawsuits, with few exceptions. You may be able to file a claim against the city or other municipality, but only to the limit of the municipality’s own insurance coverage.
Claims against municipalities also have certain rules and restrictions. For example, claims against government bodies often require a “Notice of Claim” before you can file a civil action with the applicable court system. Additionally, these lawsuits feature a shorter statute of limitations – in some cities and circumstances, the statute of limitations could be as short as 30 days.
If you’re thinking of pursuing a civil claim against a municipal entity, it’s essential to hire an attorney with experience in municipal lawsuits. Find a local attorney who is familiar with the area’s procedures and time limits for filing a claim.
Claims against government entities, particularly police officers, can be very complex. Police officers may enjoy immunity in certain circumstances, but they should be accountable for their actions if their negligence leads to permanent injury or death. A municipal claim can help you gain compensation for economic and intangible losses arising from a police officer’s negligence. However, these claims can be difficult to navigate and require the assistance of a personal injury attorney in Florida familiar with processing claims against the local government.