On September 16th, a Kentucky man in a stolen vehicle led the Tennessee Highway Patrol in a Roane County police chase before jumping out of the car and attempting to run away. This past Sunday night, a young man led police in a car chase through Anderson, Knox, Blount, Sevier, and Cocke Counties, damaging at least one police cruiser. On Monday, another man in a stolen vehicle led police in a brief car chase through Sevierville before hitting another vehicle, which then hit two more vehicles. This accident led to injuries for three individuals not involved in the pursuit.
Car chases involving individuals fleeing from law enforcement can easily result in accidents, property damage, and injuries. If you and/or your property are injured as the result of such a police chase, you may find it difficult to determine who is legally responsible to pay for any medical or repair bills. The individual fleeing the police is committing a crime and is general responsible for any injuries or property damage he or she may cause during the chase, even if he or she did not directly impact the injured individuals or damaged property (such as when the police hit a car or property while in pursuit or if another driver swerves to avoid the fleeing driver and causes injury or property damage). The government has some legal immunity in these circumstances but can be held liable in certain situations if the law enforcement officers are determined to have acted negligently or recklessly during the pursuit. Other drivers could also be found liable if they have acted negligently or recklessly in response to the car chase leading to injury or property damage. In the situations where the car is stolen, there are even limited situations where the owners of the cars may be liable.
Even if one or more of these parties is determined not to be liable for injuries or property damage resulting from the car chase, each such party could be sued by an injured party. It is important to review your insurance policies to determine the extent you would be covered if you caused an accident trying to avoid a fleeing car, if your car were hit by a fleeing driver and caused injury or damages to a third party, or if your car were stolen and later involved in a car chase that led to injuries or damages.
It is also possible that the fleeing driver may have no insurance or insufficient insurance to cover medical or repair bills resulting from a car chase. The fleeing driver’s assets may also be insufficient to cover these bills. For this reason, it is important to have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as part of your own car insurance policy. If you have this coverage, you may be able to recover damages up to the policy limits to cover medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, or property damage. Without such coverage, you may be unable to recover for medical bills and other damages even after liability is determined.