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Court Examines the Standard of Liability for Collisions Involving Police Officers in New York

Police and other first responders have the authority to activate emergency lights and sirens and travel in excess of the speed limit in certain circumstances. They must nonetheless do so with care, however, to avoid causing inadvertent harm. If a police officer operates their vehicle recklessly and collides with another motorist, they may be liable for negligence. Recently, a New York court discussed the standard of liability for police officers involved in collisions in a case in which it ultimately determined that the factual issues must be resolved by a jury. If you were hurt in a collision involving a first responder, it is prudent to meet with a Rochester personal injury attorney to discuss your possible claims.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff was driving her vehicle when she was struck by a patrol car driven by the defendant sheriff, who was working on behalf of the defendant city. The defendant sheriff was in the process of responding to a dispatch regarding an armed robbery in progress at the time of the crash.

Reportedly, the defendant sheriff attempted to pass the plaintiff on the left when the plaintiff was making a left turn and hit the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff, who suffered injuries in the accident, filed negligence claims against the defendants. The defendants moved for summary judgment, but their motion was denied. They appealed.

The Standard of Liability for Collisions Involving Police Officers

On appeal, the court noted there was no dispute that the defendant sheriff was operating an authorized emergency vehicle at the time of the crash, that he was involved in an emergency operation as defined by New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Laws, and that his conduct was privileged.

As such, the court explained, the standard for determining whether liability should be imposed on the defendants was reckless disregard, not ordinary negligence. It found, though, that the defendants failed to demonstrate as a matter of law that the defendant sheriff’s actions did not rise to the level of a reckless disregard for the safety of others. Specifically, their own evidence raised triable factual issues as to the speed the defendant sheriff was traveling at when the accident occurred and whether it could be deemed reckless under the facts of the case, and whether he activated his emergency siren and lights. As such, the court found that the trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Speak to a Skilled Personal Injury Lawyer

All drivers must operate their vehicles in a safe manner, even first responders, and unsafe motorists should be held accountable for any losses they cause. If you suffered injuries in a car accident with a first responder, it is smart to speak to an attorney about your options. The skilled Rochester personal injury lawyers of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can examine the facts of your case and gather any evidence that will help you recover compensation. You can contact us through our form online or by calling us at 585-653-7343 to set up a meeting.

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