Liability for Fatal High-Speed Police Chases in Maryland

High-speed chases are a controversial issue that involves complex public policy and safety issues. While there may be a need for a high-speed police chase, these events can lead to severe injuries and death for Maryland motorists. The balance between apprehending those accused of a crime and the potential risk to the public is a challenging task; however, ultimately, public safety is paramount. Various studies have examined the impact of these cases, finding that high-speed police pursuit nearly 300 people each year. Of these fatalities, about two-thirds were traveling in the fleeing vehicle, while an overwhelming 30% were not involved in the chase. As such, many fatalities involve innocent Maryland motorists, passengers, and pedestrians.

Recently, Maryland news reports described fatalities stemming from a fatal-single vehicle crash occurring during a police pursuit. A motorist fled after police attempted to stop him for a traffic stop. While under pursuit, the driver lost control of their vehicle and crashed. Emergency responders transported one of the vehicle’s passengers to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries; however, the second occupant suffered fatal injuries. State officials are continuing to investigate the accident.

Maryland maintains various rules that regulate the responsibility of local and state governmental entities. Under Maryland law § 19-103, police officers are not liable for injuries that stem from a police pursuit or any emergency. However, the immunity does not cover situations where the police officer was grossly negligent. Gross negligence refers to an “intentional failure” to perform a duty in the “reckless disregard” of the consequences of their actions. In other words, gross negligence occurs when an individual acts with wanton and willful disregard for the care and safety of others.

Who decides if a driver was negligent?

Courts generally leave gross negligence determinations to a jury to decide. Juries will look to the totality of the circumstances in making a decision. However, Maryland maintains specific laws that may impact a jury’s decision. For instance, as a matter of law, emergency status depends not on whether a police officer activated their lights or sirens. Although gross negligence is a high burden to meet, courts have exhibited an increased willingness to impose liability on officers for the consequences of negligent high-speed chases. However, in the same vein, motorists should take steps to move their vehicle away from the path of any high-speed police pursuits in their area of travel.

Have You Experienced Injuries in a Maryland Accident?

If you or someone you care about has suffered serious injuries or died in a Maryland car accident, the injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen can help you recover compensation. The experienced accident attorneys on our team have secured compensation for injury victims in an array of cases. We handle Maryland claims involving auto accidents, premises liability, products liability, medical malpractice, construction site accidents, and wrongful death. We provide clients with individualized attention, and strategic case plans to maximize the number of damages they recover for their losses. Contact our office at 800-654-1949 to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced Maryland lawyer on our team as soon as possible.


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