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Court Holds That Police Department May Be Liable for Officer’s Failure to Use Due Care While Responding to an Emergency

In a recent personal injury case, a state appellate court issued a written opinion discussing whether a police department could be held liable under the state’s tort claims act for injuries caused while the officer was responding to an emergency call. The case presents an important issue for Florida car accident victims who have been injured due to the negligence of a police officer or other government employee.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured in a car accident when a police officer made a left-hand turn against a red light while responding to an emergency call. There was some evidence suggesting that the police car’s emergency lights were activated at the time the vehicle entered the intersection but that siren was not engaged. A subsequent investigation revealed that the plaintiff was not speeding at the time of the accident, and given the nature of the intersection the plaintiff would not have been able to see the officer’s vehicle approaching.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city that employed the officer, claiming that the officer was negligent and that the city was vicariously responsible for the officer’s negligent actions. The city responded that the officer was exercising discretion in responding to the emergency call, and that the discretionary acts of a government employee are entitled to immunity.

The Court’s Opinion

The court began its analysis by noting that the city was correct in that discretionary acts of a government employee are generally entitled to immunity. However, the court explained that not all actions carried out by police are discretionary. The court pointed to a statute requiring that police officers exercise “due care” at all times, even when responding to an emergency call.

The court determined that the statute imposing a duty to use “due care,” even when responding to an emergency, was mandatory in nature. The court explained that if it adopted the city’s argument, essentially it would “render any accident involving a public vehicle responding to an emergency nonactionable,” which the court believed was not the legislature’s intent when in passing the statute.

The court then went on to hold that a jury may find that the officer failed to exercise due care when he entered the intersection without having engaged the vehicle’s sirens. Thus, the plaintiff’s case was permitted to proceed towards trial or settlement negotiations.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Car Accident?

If you or someone you care about has been seriously hurt in a Florida car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you have sustained. At the dedicated South Florida personal injury law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank, we represent injury victims in all types of claims, including cases against negligent government agencies and employees. We also have decades of experience dealing with difficult insurance companies. To learn more about the services we provide, and to discuss your situation with an experienced South Florida personal injury lawyer, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Discusses Personal Injury Plaintiff’s Evidentiary Burden at the Summary Judgement Stage, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published October 18, 2018.

Court Permits Car Accident Plaintiff to Proceed with Both Respondeat Superior and Negligent Entrustment Theory, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published October 25, 2018.

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