Bicyclist Christopher Thomas, 33, Died In Car Accident With Riverside County sheriff’s Deputy Patrol Vehicle By Country Club Drive and Eldorado Drive
PALM DESERT, CALIFORNIA (October 10, 2023) – A bicyclist identified as Christopher Thomas has tragically died in a Palm Desert police car accident near Country Club Drive and Eldorado Drive.
Riverside County officials are saying that the accident took place around 3:40 a.m. on Tuesday. Christopher Thomas was riding a bicycle near the Palm Valley and Indian Ridge country clubs.
An on-duty Riverside County sheriff’s deputy struck the cyclist under unclear circumstances. The officer was not responding to an emergency at the time of the crash.
Paramedics were called to the scene in order to help the victim. Despite life-saving measures, Christopher Thomas was pronounced dead at the scene.
A full investigation is currently underway by the California Highway Patrol.
Liability For Palm Desert Patrol Vehicle Accidents
Accidents with police vehicles are much more common than many people may realize. According to the National Safety Council, “In 2021, 198 people died in crashes involving emergency vehicles. The majority of these deaths were occupants of non-emergency vehicles (56%). Crashes involving police vehicles accounted for the most deaths (135), followed by ambulances (39), and fire trucks (24).” There are a number of reasons that police vehicles can be particularly dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists.
- Police officers regularly have to work at odd hours when cyclists may be less visible.
- Police officers may need to respond to emergencies which can require them to speed and break other traffic regulations.
- Police officers may be distracted by their on-board computers or service calls.
Police departments typically have a great deal of immunity for vehicle accidents, provided that officers are responding to an actual emergency. In the event of an emergency, officers are required to use their lights and sirens. If a police officer fails to use their lights and sirens while responding to an emergency, the officer involved could be liable for a subsequent collision. When a police officer is not responding to an emergency, they must obey all rules of the road as would any other driver.
All drivers must exercise due care in order to avoid hitting bicyclists and pedestrians in the roadway. To that end, officers must obey all relevant speed limits. Pursuant to California Vehicle Code 22350, no person shall operate a motor vehicle at a speed greater than what would be safe or reasonable given the prevailing conditions of the roadway. Drivers are also required to maintain at least three feet of separation from bicyclists. If a police officer fails to slow down to avoid hitting a cyclist, this could form the basis of a negligence claim. It is important that evidence is properly preserved after a car accident.
- Eye witnesses should be interviewed.
- Surveillance footage should be sought.
- The dash-cam footage of any officer involved should be reviewed.
- Medical records related to the accident should be preserved.
If a police officer was on-duty when a crash took place, the department that they worked for could be held at fault. Generally speaking, employers are liable for the wrongful acts of their employees – insofar as those employees were working within the course and scope of their job duties. Sadly, though, police departments will often fight hard to deny responsibility if their officers kills someone in an accident. This is why it is so important that evidence is properly preserved and collected. Evidence will ultimately reveal what happened, regardless of what any police officer or police department might claim.
Investigating Palm Desert Police Vehicle Accidents
We at the Sehat Law Firm extend our deepest condolences to the family of Christopher Thomas. Any person that may have more information about what happened should reach out to investigators. The Riverside County sheriff’s office needs to do their part and be completely transparent about what took place.
Do you need more information about any Palm Desert car accident? Our team of bicycle safety advocates are here to help in any way that we can. We are committed to helping accident victims and holding police departments accountable for their negligence. Whether you just have legal questions or need a free, independent investigation into any incident we are here for you. You can reach out to us anytime at (949) 825-5200.