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Government Liability In Police Chase and Emergency Vehicle Collisions

Atlanta area interstates, highways and roadways facilitate the movement of over five million residents throughout its 31 metropolitan areas. This large volume of vehicles on our roadways has contributed to the steady statistical increase of automobile accidents in Atlanta each year. Aside from the everyday hazard of being involved in a single or multiple car accident with another passenger vehicle, emergency vehicles and responders often times find themselves involved in and the cause of these life altering accidents as well.

Accidents involving emergency vehicles pose an entirely different analysis than one involving a regular passenger vehicle. In fact, depending on the circumstances involved in the accident, the ability to recover from the government entity or municipality can be significantly limited by sovereign immunity. The Georgia statute, O.C.G.A §40-6-6 entitled “Authorized Emergency Vehicles”, codifies the standard emergency vehicles are held to when determining their liability for causing vehicle accidents. In general, the law allows an emergency vehicle, (i.e., ambulance, firetruck, or police vehicle), to largely disregard traffic laws as long as they do not unnecessarily endanger life or property. The statute also absolves a pursuing police vehicle from liability for damage and injury caused by a fleeing suspect vehicle unless the law enforcement officer acted with reckless disregard for proper law enforcement procedures in the officer’s decision to initiate or continue the pursuit. (O.C.G.A. §40-6-6)

The high rate of speed and necessity to increase response times by disregarding traffic laws contributes to devastating accidents. Law enforcement and other emergency responders are required to utilize lights, sirens and other standard operating procedures to minimize the risk of injury to innocent third parties. These types of injury cases are much more complex than than your average car accident personal injury case. The issue is not just whether the officer or emergency driver was negligent in their driving but whether their conduct was grossly negligent as compared to proper law enforcement procedures. This requires the representing attorney to examine the department procedures in place for the pursuit of suspects and responding to emergency situations at that agency as well as the standard at other agencies in order to build their case that the actions of the officer strayed from acceptable behavior.

Injury claims for recovery against government agencies are also extremely time sensitive. Most car accident cases have two years before they are barred from recovery by statute of limitations. With claims against government entities, an ante litem notice claim must be filed within six months if it is against a municipality and within twelve months if it is a State or county government agency. Ante litem notices put the government on notice that you intend to file a law suit. They can often be the beginning of the discovery process as well as negotiations. If you or a loved one have been injured due to an accident with a police or other emergency vehicle, Douglasville Personal Injury Lawyers will evaluate your injury case and advise you of all of your legal options. Call today for a free case evaluation.