When police officers are responding to a call, it is not uncommon for them to go speeding through city streets—sometimes pausing at red lights, sometimes not. For a responding officer, time is of the essence, of course, as the situation to which he or she has been called can quickly go out of control. When a private citizen is speeding along the highway or on city roads, he or she is typically responsible for any accidents, damages, or injuries that may arise as a result. But what about police officers? Can they be held accountable when an accident occurs in the line of duty?
In July of 2012, a 50-year-old Hartford man was driving along Albany Avenue, and was heading—with a green light—through the Woodland Street intersection. Seemingly out of nowhere, the man’s car was broadsided by a speeding police cruiser heading south on Woodland Street and running the red light. The man’s car was crushed on the passenger side and was pushed into a building on the side of the road. He was taken immediately to the hospital with severe injuries, where he died a week later. The officer driving the police cruiser was not hurt.
According to witnesses and the lawyer representing the estate of the decedent, the police officer did not turn on the flashing lights or the sirens until just before he crossed into the intersection and never even slowed. The police car did have a dashboard camera recording system, but the officer claimed that technical problems did not allow the camera to capture the moments leading up the accident or the collision itself.
Criminal Charges, Civil Liability
A few months after the accident, the officer who had been driving the cruiser was arrested by Hartford police on charges of negligent homicide with a motor vehicle, reckless driving, and other offenses. He was acquitted by a jury in May of last year, but the man’s family was still able to file a civil lawsuit against the city of Hartford.
The lawyer for the estate said that the police car was traveling nearly 60 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone and that the vehicle’s event data recorder showed a speed of 58 mph at the time of impact. Police departments are supposed to maintain written safety procedures when a police pursuit in necessary, and state law requires police and emergency personnel to act with caution when violating traffic laws while on the job.
Rather than push the issue to trial, the city of Hartford agreed to a settlement of $2.9 million. An attorney for the officer said that his client “remains terribly sorry for this tragic accident.” The man is still currently serving with the Hartford Police Department.
Legal Action Against a Municipality
Filing a lawsuit against a city or state government can be very complicated and difficult, but, in certain situations, doing so may be the right choice. If you have been injured by a government employee in the course of his or her employment, discuss your matter with an experienced Hartford personal injury attorney today. Call [[phone1]] for a free, no-obligation consultation.