Police officers and other law enforcement personnel are typically protected by sovereign immunity. However, in Pennsylvania, even police officers can be held liable when a crash happens due to negligence.
Schmidt Kramer talks about crashes with police cars and when the officers in these traffic incidents could be held liable for the damages. Even when a claim with a police car may be valid, however, the window for seeking compensation is very short.
Victims who request a free case review have the opportunity to meet with an experienced car accident lawyer in Harrisburg. We welcome your legal questions in this meeting, and there is no obligation to file a claim. Your initial consultation is truly risk-free. If you choose our firm to represent you, there are no upfront costs to pay.
Call (717) 727-1403 24/7 to request a FREE case review.
Do Pennsylvania Police Officers Have to Obey Traffic Laws?
Often police may go through red traffic lights, pass traffic on the right and go through intersections without stopping. Officers may need to pursue drivers engaged in reckless driving behavior in order to protect others sharing the road. High-speed chases may also be necessary when chasing criminals. However, vehicles in the area should be alerted by the police car’s sirens and flashing lights.
When police officers are properly doing their job, they are protected by sovereign immunity and cannot be held liable for damages they cause.
Are There Exceptions to Sovereign Immunity for Police Officers?
Despite being under the protection of Pennsylvania’s Sovereign Immunity, there are exceptions when it may not apply. After all, being an officer does not make police less human. There could be times when a police officer makes a driving error or is negligent in some way. If this happens, it could lead to a crash and cause serious harm, especially since police car crashes may often be at high speed.
Under Pennsylvania law, there are very specific times when a police officer may not be protected by sovereign immunity. For instance, a police officer who is engaged in a high-speed chase without his or her siren or lights on is not protected by immunity if it leads to a crash.
Additionally, an officer who is out patrolling could be held liable if he or she breaks these and other traffic laws without first having activated the vehicle’s siren or lights:
- Fails to heed a stop sign
- Runs through a red traffic light
- Fails to yield the right of way
- Is speeding
- Does not use a turn signal
- Makes an illegal U-turn
In short, sovereign immunity may not apply if:
- A police officer was on a high-speed chase and did not activate the vehicle’s siren or lights
- Breaks a traffic law while patrolling without first activating the vehicle’s siren or lights
- That negligence leads to a crash that results in permanent injury or death of the victim
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim for a Crash Caused By Police?
Unfortunately, even if you do have a valid case for a crash caused by a Pennsylvania police officer, there is a short window for seeking compensation.
The statute of limitations for car accident injuries in Pennsylvania is typically two years from the date of the crash. However, if you have a valid case for a crash involving a police car, you have a lot less time to file a claim. In fact, you only have six months from the date the crash occurred.
A claim involving law enforcement is going to be complicated and difficult to prove. This is why we strongly recommend that you seek legal help immediately following any crash involving a police car. It is important to note that even if you do have a valid claim against the state or local government in Pennsylvania, the amount you can recover is capped.
How Do I Pay For Damages After a Crash With a Police Car?
Regardless of whether or not the police officer who hit your car is held liable, you may still have options under your own insurance policy to help you pay for your damages. However, it depends on what type of auto insurance policy you purchased.
Since Pennsylvania is a choice no-fault state, you have the option of purchasing either a no-fault policy or a tort liability policy. Under a no-fault policy, things like your property damage, lost wages and medical costs are covered, up to the limits under your policy. If you only purchased the state minimums, that coverage is not likely to go very far.
The state only requires drivers to purchase a minimum amount of coverage, including:
- $5,000 in medical benefits
- $5,000 in property damages
- $15,000/$30,000 in liability coverage (per person/per accident)
You can purchase more coverage at a relatively low cost. It is a good idea to consider purchasing at least $5,000 more in coverage.
Need Legal Help After a Crash With a Police Car? Call Our Trusted Law Firm
Crashes with police cars do happen, and may not be the driver at fault. Police could be liable for causing your crash, injuries and any related damages.
Contact Schmidt Kramer to discuss potential legal options. You cannot call a lawyer too soon after a crash involving the police or some other government vehicle.
Deadlines for these claims are very short, so you could definitely benefit from a firm with decades of experience and a history of proven results.
We have staff who can take your call any time, night or day. We are here to help.
Millions recovered for our clients. Call (717) 727-1403