Family Of Crash Victims Sue Police Over Reckless Chase
Most of us have only seen a high-speed police chase unfold on television or in a movie - even from that distance, the enormous danger to the public is pretty obvious. Police officers have a big duty to chase criminals as safely as possible to avoid injuring or killing bystanders.
Reasonable minds could differ regarding when it is appropriate to engage in a high-speed pursuit. For example, it might be worth a larger risk to catch a serial or violent criminal than it is to apprehend a shoplifter. However, most of us should be able to agree that police should carefully consider the consequences of their tactics. Following a suspect is one thing, forcing him or her off the road is another - and laying spike strips in crowded intersections is something completely different. Under certain circumstances, police might be liable for causing a car accident.
According to a new wrongful death lawsuit by the families of two teenage victims, the Bayport, Texas police force recklessly endangered the public to catch suspected shoplifters. After chasing the suspects for more than two miles at speeds exceeding 90 mph, the officers placed a spike strip in a the middle of an intersection.
When a car hits a spike strip at high speeds, it usually loses control and swerves off of the road. These suspects allegedly hit the Bayport spike strip and crashed into another car that was stopped at a red light. The impact killed one of that car's teenage occupants and severely burned a second.
One big question in this lawsuit will likely be whether the officers should have expected this to happen. If police officers knew that placing the spike strip where they did would cause the car to lose control, it was likely negligent of them to put it in an intersection surrounded by other stopped cars.
Source: Houston Chronicle, "Lawsuit: Police 'spike strip' caused fiery crash that killed, injured teens," Erin Mulvaney, Feb. 7, 2013