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Police Chases in Los Angeles: Are They Worth the Risk?

California Legislators Push for Road Safety as Drivers Continue to Speed

A Los Angeles Times article shows that police chases in the city injured more bystanders in 2015 than any other year in the last decade. This is a surge that has renewed the calls for the LAPD to reform a pursuit policy, which is considered one of the most permissive in California. According to the Times, 78 bystanders or people who were not involved in the pursuit, were hurt during LAPD chases just in 2015. The previous highest tally was 61 in 2005. Also, LAPD chases in 2015 injured bystanders at four times the rate of police pursuits in the rest of the state.

The number of injured bystanders, which includes drivers as well as pedestrians and passengers, was the highest in Los Angeles since 2002, the earliest year for which California Highway Patrol has available pursuit data. During that year, 57 bystanders were injured. In most cases, it is the fleeing suspect whose vehicle collides with pedestrians or other vehicles.

LAPD’s Pursuit Policy

However, some policing experts blame this high rate of injuries suffered by bystanders on LAPD’s pursuit policy. The department allows officers to pursue vehicles for a variety of crimes including minor ones such as car theft, driving while intoxicated and reckless driving. Fleeing motorists who are impaired are more likely to cause a crash while speeding or driving erratically as they attempt an escape. But, LAPD officials say pursuits are a necessary tactic to fight crime.

What the Law Says

California Vehicle Code Section 17004 states: “A public agency employing peace officers that adopts and promulgates a written policy on, and provides regular and periodic training on an annual basis for, vehicular pursuits … is immune from liability for civil damages for personal injury to or death of any person or damage to property resulting from the collision of a vehicle being operated by an actual or suspected violator of the law who is being, has been, or believes he or she is being or has been, pursued in a motor vehicle by a peace officer employed by the public entity.”

The question to ask in such cases is: Were the police officers justified in initiating this pursuit, which put public safety in jeopardy? In cases where the answer is “no,” injured victims may be able to seek compensation for their damages and losses. An experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer will be able to stay abreast of such an investigation and ensure that the victims’ family’s legal rights and best interests are protected. Please remember that any wrongful death claim against a governmental agency in California must be filed within six months of the incident.

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