A police officer who risks his life trying to catch the bad guy, and is injured while doing so, ranks high up there among this Syracuse New York injury lawyer’s pantheon of heroes. And that’s what happened yesterday in Syracuse. The Syracuse Post Standard reports that a Syracuse police officer, in hot pursuit of a burglary suspect, was seriously injured when he crashed his police car into the back of another car, and then into a tree on East Fayette Street in Syracuse.
The fact that the police officer may have injured innocent bystanders (the occupants of the car he rear-ended) is, though, problematic. You might be wondering how the law deals with that. Do those injured by cops pursuing criminals have a right to sue the police officer, and his police department, for their injuries?
The answer is “yes”, but they have to show more than that the police officer was negligent. They have to show he was driving with “reckless disregard” for the public’s safety. This is a pretty tough standard, and for good reason; we want our brave police officers to pursue criminals, even at high speeds when necessary, without having to worry about getting sued for accidents they inadvertently cause in trying to protect us from criminals and other dangers.
Still, the public should have, and does have, a right to expect that police officers (and other emergency responders, such as an ambulance drivers), not drive recklessly, even when pursuing criminals or responding to other emergencies. We don’t want them to needlessly risk the lives of innocent bystanders. That’s why New York personal injury law allows people injured by police officers and other emergency responders to sue for reckless driving, but not mere negligent driving.
This is a good rule. Otherwise, police officers and other emergency responders could take their pursuits to excessively dangerous limits with impunity, causing more harm (by injuring innocent bystanders) than good (by catching the bad guys).
In the end, at least to this Syracuse New York personal injury lawyer, New York personal injury law makes sense. I hope you agree! Feel free to let me know. I’d love to hear from you!
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Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
michaels-smolak.com Central NY Personal Injury Lawyer Michaels & Smolak, P.C.