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Understanding New York Personal Injury Law in Police-Involved Car Crashes

A recent investigation by the Albany Times Union has revealed a troubling trend in New York State—serious crashes involving police cars are on the rise, resulting in property damage, injuries, and even fatalities. 

As a leading personal injury law firm serving Dutchess, Orange, and Ulster County, Mainetti & Mainetti is committed to helping individuals who have been injured in collisions with police vehicles seek the justice and compensation they deserve. In this article, we’ll explore the statistics surrounding police-caused car crashes in New York State and provide essential legal advice for those who find themselves in such unfortunate situations.

Understanding the Statistics:

According to the investigation, crashes involving police cars in New York have been increasing significantly over the past decade. From 2012 to 2019, the number of collisions resulting in property damage, injury, or death more than doubled, and after a temporary decline during the pandemic, these collisions have surged once again. Additionally, fatal police car collisions in the U.S. have increased by 30 percent over the last 12 years, with most of the fatalities being civilian drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists, or bicyclists.

For the police, motor vehicle crashes are the second-leading cause of death for on-duty members, with almost half of the deaths involving police not wearing a seatbelt. An expert at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said, ““Officers are actually at a higher risk traveling to the scene than at the scene itself.”

Legal Recourse for Victims:

If you’ve been injured in a collision with a police car in Dutchess, Orange, or Ulster County, it’s crucial to understand your legal rights and options. 

Recovering damages from a personal injury caused by a government agency like a police department can be complex, but it’s entirely possible. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Filing a Notice of Claim: In New York, you have 90 days from the time of the accident to file a Notice of Claim with the city or government agency involved. This notifies them of your intent to sue and is a critical step in the legal process.
  • Statute of Limitations: After filing a Notice of Claim, you have one year and 90 days from the date of the accident to file a civil lawsuit against the police department. This is a shorter timeframe than typical personal injury claims, so it’s essential to act swiftly.
  • Proving liability: In New York State, the most common circumstances in police-involved car crashes were unsafe backing up, distracted driving, dangerous speeds and deer in the roadway. There may also be distractions from computer terminals, radios, or cellphones. 
  • Seeking Legal Representation: While it’s possible to file a lawsuit without a lawyer, it’s highly recommended to enlist the help of experienced personal injury attorneys which can provide the expertise and resources to navigate the complexities of suing a government agency and can maximize your chances of a successful outcome.
  • Privileges: In New York State, police officers enjoy certain privileges under Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) Section 1104 when conducting “emergency operations.” These privileges allow them to violate certain traffic laws under specific circumstances, including the running of red lights, going over the speed limit, and making illegal turns. They will not be held liable for negligence unless their conduct can be proven to be reckless. To receive compensation from a police officer involved in a car accident during an emergency operation, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the officer acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others.

If you’ve been injured in a collision with a police car in Dutchess, Orange, or Ulster County, give us a call at 845-600-0000 to schedule a free consultation at our offices in Kingston, Poughkeepsie or New Windsor, NY. With our expertise and commitment to client advocacy, we’ll fight tirelessly to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.