Deadly High-Speed Police Chase in Shelby County

by | Apr 21, 2021 | Car Accidents, Injuries

State troopers relentlessly pursued a man for several miles, eventually forcing him into a wreck which ejected him from his vehicle.

Shelbyville police officers responding to a disturbance call encountered the suspect’s vehicle on the road. When officers tried to detain the suspect, he accelerated away from the scene. The high-speed chase continued for about three miles, until the suspect eventually lost control of his vehicle near the intersection of Ski Area Road and U.S. Highway 60. Emergency responders tried to revive the suspect, but he died at the scene.

No officers were injured, according to reports.

Dangerous Police Pursuits

Police shootings, like the 2020 death of Breonna Taylor, understandably dominate news headlines. But reckless police chases, like the one described above, kill and injure many more people than shooting incidence. These pursuits also kill or seriously injure more people than headline-grabbing disasters, like fires, tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes. Frequently, police chase victims are innocent bystanders. 

While the cameras are rolling, most officers justify chases by saying they cannot selectively enforce the law. That’s certainly true. However, it’s also true that most suspects say they would stop running if officers stopped chasing them. So, in most cases, the burden is on officers to prevent these tragic deaths and serious injuries.

Furthermore, available technology could end high-speed chases forever. For example, shootable GPS tracking devices allow officers to tag suspect vehicles and track them down later. But many law enforcement agencies have not embraced such advances. That’s primarily because, off the record, most officers admit that the adrenaline rush which comes from “getting the bad guy” is irresistible.

So, even though the Department of Justice called high-speed pursuits the most dangerous kind of ordinary police work, these reckless chases will probably continue for the foreseeable future. The law limits, but does not eliminate, the options these victims and survivors have for financial compensation.

Establishing Liability

The official immunity doctrine, which many people have harshly criticized, usually shields officers from liability in police shooting cases, like the Breonna Taylor case. The sovereign immunity doctrine, another rule which has many critics, sometimes shields officers from liability in police chase claims.

Sovereign immunity comes from a Medieval idea called the divine right of kings. These people honestly believed that the king was an agent of God Himself. As a result, the king could never make a mistake or be wrong, so any lawsuit against him would fail. 

Today, sovereign immunity is far from absolute. In fact, Kentucky has one of the weakest sovereign immunity laws in the country. A Lexington personal injury lawyer can usually prove liability in court in the following situations:

  • Extreme Recklessness: This subjective standard usually depends on the circumstances of the accident. Police officers usually showed extreme recklessness if they flaunted all traffic laws, like driving on the right side of the road, speed was excessive, traffic was heavy, or there were pedestrians in the area.
  • Policy Violation: This objective standard hinges on a permanent or temporary anti-chase policy. Many law enforcement agencies have written anti-chase policies which allow pursuits only in limited circumstances, such as the pursuit of a known, dangerous felon. Other times, dispatchers issue commands like “do not pursue” or “pursue with extreme caution.” Policy violations are evidence of negligence.

If victim/plaintiffs can get around the sovereign immunity doctrine, they must normally file a notice of claim. This notice gives the city, county, state, or other agency an opportunity to resolve the case quietly court of court.

Outcomes of Civil Claims

Over 95 percent of car crash and other civil claims settle out of court. These settlements provide financial compensation to survivors and victims. Perhaps more importantly, these victims and survivors also receive justice.

Victims who survive need financial compensation to pay medical bills resulting from the accident, as well as the everyday obligations they couldn’t pay while they were unable to work. Individual tortfeasors (negligent drivers) usually aren’t financially responsible for these images. The insurance company pays damages, and also pays for a lawyer.

Wrongful death survivors typically use compensation to pay the decedent’s final expenses, such as funeral and burial costs. Furthermore, the money helps assuage the grief that these survivors feel.

Out of court settlements usually don’t include liability admissions. But the court of public opinion is different from a court of law. Insurance companies don’t pay unless their backs are against the wall and they know their insured party was responsible. That fact allows both victims and survivors to at least mostly leave the tragic events behind them and move on with their lives.

Reckless police chases often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act. #goodelawyers