This past weekend, a stolen car being pursed by Toronto police slammed into a grey Chevrolet sending four innocent occupants to hospital with serious injuries and one in a life threatening condition.
Most police chases occur when a police officer attempts stop a motor vehicle at which point the driver refuses to obey. The officer then has to make the decision of whether not to pursue the driver.
In Ontario, anytime someone is seriously injured in a car accident involving police officers; the special investigations unit “(SIU) is called upon to investigate the cause of the accident and to what extent the actions of police may have been a factor. Under legislation outlined in the Police Services Act the SIU investigative process will:
- Examine the MVA accident scene, secure any witnesses, physical evidence and determine if a police officer acted negligently in connection with the incident.
- Depending on the evidence, lay a criminal charge against the officer if appropriate or close the file without any charges being laid.
- Report the results of any investigations to the Ontario Ministry Of The Attorney General.
Duty Of Care In Police Pursuit Car Accident Injuries
Just like any other driver on Ontario roadways; police owe a duty of care to road users during pursuits. Police officers must meet an appropriate standard of care when they choose to pursue a motor vehicle attempting to elude capture. Legislation governing suspect apprehension pursuits in Ontario can be found within the Police Services Act under regulation 266/10.
Based on past case law, Ontario courts have made it clear, that the police must successfully balance duties to apprehend with the duty to ensure public safety. This not only extends to the general public – but to the occupants of the fleeing vehicle as well.
In order for police officers to be found civilly liable in a police chase – car accident, investigators and plaintiff personal injury lawyers must first prove that they breached that duty of care – resulting in the collision and were at least to some extent, responsible for the damages suffered.
Factors That Must Be Considered When Pursuit Related Car Accidents Cause Serious Personal Injury or Death
- Did police deploy all required emergency equipment, such as sirens and lights.
- High speed police chases pose a significant risk to other motorists and pedestrians. Did the police take into consideration other users of the roadway and foresee any reasonable potential for them to be harmed by their actions.
- Under what Determination did the officer see the need to identify the fleeing motor vehicle; and did it outweigh his/her duty to public safety.
- Did the officer continually reassess the situation and discontinue the pursuit when the risk to public safety outweighed the need for apprehension.
- At what point was the identity of the fleeing driver known to police.
- Did the officer initiate a suspect apprehension pursuit when a criminal offense has not been committed.
- Did the police officer that had engaged in a pursuit for a non-criminal offense discontinue the pursuit of the fleeing vehicle once an individual in vehicle was identified.
Rights To Personal Injury Compensation
Whether or not police involvement was a factor in the car accident – those who have been negligently injured by the actions of others have the right to compensation for their losses. Compensation may come by way of:
- A lawsuit claiming negligence on behalf of the police
- A lawsuit against the at fault driver(s) and their insurance company,
- Or a claim filed with the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund intended to compensate victims who are injured in a car accident with an uninsured driver.