Can You Sue the Police in a Traffic Accident?

In the United States each year, there are approximately 300 deaths that happen as the result of police chases. In addition to this, officers have killed and injured many other people due to more common reasons like distracted driving. If you are the victim of an accident that was caused by the police, you have rights under the law. But can you sue?

Imagine you are driving down the road and following the traffic laws. Out of nowhere a speeding police officer runs a red light, and your life is forever changed. Now you are stuck with a hospital bill, you’re missing work, and you’re going to require costly follow-up care to recover after the accident.


If you didn’t cause the accident, you shouldn’t be left struggling to pay the bills. This is where things can get complicated.

What You Can Do if the Police Caused Your Accident

Like anyone else, police officers can be held liable for negligence. However, there are laws that protect them from civil liability. The biggest problem with filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against a police officer is proving negligence. The officer’s actions that caused your accident could possibly be justified during the course of their duties.

When any public employee causes a wreck, the government agency they work for can only be sued in very specific circumstances. Even if you win, your settlement or award may be limited to their insurance policy’s limit, which may not be enough to cover the full value of your damages. That does not mean it’s not worth pursuing a lawsuit in certain cases.

Why Police Have High Accident Rates

According to the Centers for Disease Control Law Enforcement Officer Motor Vehicle Safety report, officers have double the rate of car accidents than the average person. Some of the reasons for this include:

  • Being distracted while using electronic devices like their mobile data terminal
  • Speeding through intersections
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Being under so much stress that they experience tunnel vision

Work conditions that include physical exertion and stress can lead to the development of physical and mental health issues in police officers. Not only can this cause crashes that hurt others, car accidents are also the leading line-of-duty cause of death for officers.

How to File a Claim if You’ve Been Injured

To sue the police department, you will need to make a complaint against the officer. After that, you’ll need to file a lawsuit with the courts and then wait for the police department to respond. They may be willing to settle with you to avoid court. If they won’t, you will have a jury trial.

Some of the damages you can be compensated for include your medical bills, missed salary, and if you’re permanently disabled your lost future income. Some non-economic damages you can claim include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and grief if you’ve lost a loved one in a police-related accident.

Whether you represent yourself in court or you decide to go with an attorney, before you file a lawsuit against the police you’ll need to gather as much evidence as possible. You may also have to call in an expert witness who can testify as to how the officer was negligent in his duties. The cost of these witnesses is one of the biggest reasons you’ll want to hire a lawyer.

You can follow this link to learn more about financial recovery after a car accident. Many personal injury lawyers will pay for the expert witnesses up front and then deduct it from your settlement if you win. When you’re taking a government entity like the police department on in court, it’s best to have all the help on your side that you can get.

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