A woman who suffered serious injuries after a patrol car driven by an on-duty Delray Beach police officer slammed into her sedan at an intersection will receive nearly $540,000 in damages, per a South Florida jury’s recent decision.
According to reports, the 56-year-old victim, a fast-food worker, suffered a head injury, compression fracture of her spine and numerous other injuries when the officer struck her at the intersection of Federal Highway and Southeast 10th Street. She nearly died.
At the time, the officer was responding to a burglary-in-progress call. Problem was, he didn’t have his emergency lights or sirens activated when he sailed through a red light – and right into plaintiff’s car.
The officer would later claim the emergency lights were on, but his siren was not because he did not want to alert the alleged burglar at the scene to which he was responding. An agency internal investigation noted there were no other witnesses to the collision, but concluded the officer’s lights were in fact off.
Plaintiff in Miley v. City of Delray Beach might have been awarded a higher amount, but jury only found the officer to be 65 percent at fault.
Our Palm Beach accident lawyers know cases like this are tough because they involve making claims against the government. Emergency responders and police officers in particular are granted a wide degree of protection from liability when they are carrying out essential functions of the job. In certain cases, police agencies and officers are immune from liability. However, there is still a general expectation that officers will use a reasonable amount of care.
Still, it’s important for victims to explore their options for compensation because the cost for medical expenses, lost wages and diminished earning capacity can be significant.
A recent report by The Boston Globe indicates 100 people a year in that state were injured in accidents caused by state troopers over the last 10 years, resulting in more than $3 million in settlements. That amount would likely be much larger if it weren’t for the fact that state caps damages for negligence claims against the government at $100,000. (The state of Florida set at $200,000 per person and $300,000 cap per tort claim, effective Oct. 1, 2011. That amount would be applicable in the Miley case, as the police department is an agency under state jurisdiction.)
In Massachusetts, the Globe reported the total number of accidents involving officers to be roughly 1,800 over the course of the last five years. In Florida, which has a much higher population and many more officers, that figure is likely to be much higher.
For the officer in the Miley case, that crash represented his third on-duty accident in less than one year, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Following an internal investigation, the officer was found to have been in violation of a number of motor vehicle laws, obedience to laws, ordinances and standards. Investigators noted the burglary call to which he responded did not include reported violence or threats of violence and there was no indication a suspect had entered an occupied home – calling into question his decision to speed through a red light without lights or sirens. The final report indicated the officer’s emergency response “was not necessary.” He was suspended without pay for just 72 hours.
The city has not indicated whether it plans to appeal the Miley verdict.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Jury Awards Delray Beach worker $540k after crash with officer, Jan. 28, 2015, Daily Business Review
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Robinson v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth. – Bus Injury Litigated, Jan. 20, 2015, West Palm Beach Car Accident Lawyer Blog