Infant Dead Following Reckless High-Speed Police Chase
Lakeland Police Department officers apprehended an auto theft suspect after he smashed head-on into an Altima with a 10-month-old baby in the backseat.
The pursuit began on Martin Luther King Boulevard, when an officer tried to pull over an allegedly stolen Infiniti. Rather than submit to police authority, the 21-year-old suspect accelerated away. As the chase continued, the suspect began driving eastbound on westbound George Jenkins Boulevard. The Infiniti rounded a curve and smacked into an Altima. The baby and his 19-year-old mother were both airlifted to a nearby hospital.
The baby lingered for several hours before succumbing to his injuries. His seriously-injured mother is expected to survive.
Wrong-Way Vehicle Collisions
Today’s cars are much safer than the ones on the road thirty years ago. But much of these advances are things like side curtain airbags which do little or no good in a head-on crash. Additionally, large, heavy vehicles, like SUVs and pickup trucks, are much more common today. As a result, in a wrong-way crash, the injuries sustained today are almost as bad as the ones sustained in the 1990s.
There is a difference between a head-on crash and a wrong-way crash. If a vehicle drifts over the centerline, a crash is almost impossible to avoid, especially if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was already operating erratically.
Sometimes, wrong-way crashes are easier to avoid, if a victim saw a wrong-way driver approaching. That’s the essence of the last clear chance defense. If a victim had a reasonable chance to avoid a crash but did not take advantage of this opportunity, the tortfeasor is not legally responsible for damages.
However, if the tortfeasor was approaching at a high speed, as in the above story, such an emergency maneuver is usually impossible. Everything happens too fast.
High-Speed Police Chases
As early as the 1990s, the Department of Justice called reckless high-speed chases the most dangerous form of everyday police activity. These incidents kill many more people than police shootings.
In response, a number of police departments, including most Florida agencies, passed rules limiting high-speed chases. Typically, however, these rules are quite vague and give police officers a great deal of leeway.
As a result, to determine if police officers crossed the line and are ineligible for official immunity, judges often weigh a number of factors, such as:
- Nature of the suspect’s offense,
- Time of day,
- Location of the chase,
- Traffic conditions at the time, and
- Presence or absence of pedestrians.
The bottom line is that if the suspect committed a nonviolent offense, such as auto theft, and there is any possible danger to bystanders, a high-speed chase is probably inappropriate. The onus is on officers to prevent injuries. Most fleeing suspects later say that they would have stopped running if the police called off their pursuit.
Procedurally, a Port St. Lucie personal injury attorney must file a Notice of Claim in these cases. This notice gives the city or other public employer an opportunity to examine the facts and settle the case. If the settlement offer is unacceptable, civil action may follow.
Reach Out to an Experienced Lawyer
High-speed wrecks often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.