Police actions are increasingly becoming the focus of citizens and the media. With the advent of cell phone cameras, police actions are increasingly under scrutiny. In the wake of videos featuring police brutality, the shooting of unarmed citizens, and other unfortunate actions, many are calling for increased police accountability. What has often been left out of the discussion of police behavior are the actions of police while behind the steering wheels of their cars and the toll it has on the general public.
In Massachusetts, state police are involved in a car accident almost every day of the week, every week of the year. Since 2009 the state police have been involved in over 1,800 accidents. This has resulted in over a 100 people injured a year in police crashes. While some of the accidents are the fault of other drivers, more than a third of them are caused by the actions of police officers, costing the state millions. While police shootings of civilians are getting more media attention, there are thousands of people affected by officer's actions behind the wheel.
Pursuing a claim for damages caused by the actions of police officers is difficult. Many times police can resort to blaming the victim of an accident and are able to effectively do so because they control the police report and investigation. But evidence will likely become easier to obtain as departments invest in monitoring equipment that records everything from speed to when the brake was pressed. Another hurdle victims of police action face is the $100,000 statutory limit that Massachusetts places on negligence claims against government agencies, even in fatal crashes. Whether against a police officer or a drunk driver, pursing a civil claim can be a trying time in any accident victim's life.
Source: The Boston Globe, "Troopers, public at risk from State Police cruiser crashes," Todd Wallack, October 5, 2014