Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case involving a car accident that was allegedly caused by a police officer’s negligence. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether the city that employed the officer was entitled to governmental immunity. Ultimately, the court concluded that because the officer failed to drive with “due regard for the safety of others,” immunity did not apply.
The case presents an important issue for Indiana car accident victims who have been injured in an accident involving a government official or employee because similar government immunity laws apply in Indiana.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was injured when the defendant police officer made a left turn against a red traffic signal while responding to an emergency. The plaintiff testified that the police vehicle’s emergency lights were on, but that the sirens were not engaged. The accident investigator’s report indicated that the plaintiff was no speeding at the time of the collision, and it would have been impossible for her to see the police vehicle approaching due to the slope of the intersection roads.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the police officer as well as the city that employed him, claiming that the city was vicariously liable for the officer’s negligent actions. The defendants argued that because the officer was responding to an emergency call, his decision to enter the intersection while the signal was red was a discretionary one and, under state law, the discretionary actions of government employees are entitled to immunity.
The Court’s Decision
The court acknowledged that the general rule is that a government employee acting within the scope of their employment is entitled to immunity when carrying out discretionary actions. However, the court also noted that this general rule seems to conflict with the duties of a police officer as outlined in another statute. That statute requires a police officer act with “due regard for the safety of others” when responding to an emergency.
The court read the two statutes in a manner that both could be given effect. The court held that a police officer does not have discretion when it comes to using due care when responding to an emergency. Thus, an officer who fails to exercise due care when responding to an emergency is not acting within their discretion and is not protected under governmental immunity. Under this interpretation, both the general statute conferring immunity for discretionary actions and the more specific statute requiring an officer use due care when responding to an emergency are both given legal effect.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana car accident that involved a government employee, you may be eligible for monetary compensation through an Indiana personal injury lawsuit. The fact that a government employee was involved in the accident will likely change the nature of your claims and may require proof of additional facts. The dedicated Indiana personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have decades of combined experience fighting for the rights of injury victims and know what it takes to succeed on their clients’ behalf. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation today.
Settlement Agreements in Indiana Personal Injury Cases, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, October 3, 2018
How Courts Apply the Indiana Recreational-Use Statute, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, September 28, 2018