Every year, pedestrian and bicycle accidents involving police vehicles occur in California, resulting in injuries and even fatalities. The California law creates specific provisions determining liabilities for the police force and public agencies in such incidents.

Understanding these provisions is essential to protecting the victims’ rights and ensuring they receive the compensation they deserve.


On-Duty Accidents

When police officers are on duty, they are liable for accidents they cause while operating a vehicle, which includes accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists. If an investigation finds an officer driving negligently, they may be held accountable for any injuries or damages caused.

In addition, If the accident causes a wrongful death, the victim’s family may also be able to file a wrongful death claim. In cases where the officer is found not to be at fault, the victim may still be able to seek compensation through the officer’s insurance or the agency’s insurance policy, which typically covers on-duty accidents.

Off-Duty Accidents

When police officers are off-duty, different liability rules apply. The agency is liable for off-duty accidents caused by its officers only if they acted within the scope of their employment when the accident occurred.

When an officer is off-duty and not performing any official duties, they are not acting within the scope of their job, and the law does not hold the agency liable, which means that the injured party can file claims against the officer’s personal insurance policy.


Emergency Response

Police officers can be responsible for accidents during emergency responses, even if they follow protocol. If the emergency response was not reasonable under the circumstances and the officer did not exercise due care, they may be liable for any injuries.

If the officer acted within the scope of their employment, the agency becomes responsible for any accident. However, if the emergency response was unreasonable and the officer was not on duty, the officer could be held liable personally.


Comparative Negligence

California follows a proximate negligence rule, which means that a court proceeding can rule that a victim’s compensation be reduced by the degree of their fault in the accident.

Suppose a pedestrian or bicyclist contributed to the accident. In that case, they might still be able to receive compensation, but the court will establish a reduced amount based on the percentage of their fault.


Statute of Limitations

It is essential to know that there is a statute of limitations for filing any claims related to injuries or wrongful deaths caused by police vehicles. For personal injury claims, the statute of limitations is two years from the accident date, and for wrongful death claims, it is two years from the date of death.

The law recommends victims seek legal representation as soon as possible to ensure that they file their case within the statute of limitations.

California law holds police officers and agencies accountable for accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists when they are on duty or acting within the scope of their employment. However, when police officers are off-duty, the agency may not be held liable.

Emergency response situations and comparative negligence also play a significant role in determining liabilities.


Death or Serious Injury by a Police Vehicle Accident Attorney in Los Angeles

Knowing your rights and the legal provisions in such cases is essential to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Seeking legal representation as soon as possible is crucial to filing a claim within the statute of limitations. Please reach out to Southern California civil rights attorneys at The Sehat Law Firm for a free consultation.