Atlanta Police Chief, Erika Shields, announced in early January 2020 that the City of Atlanta will halt all vehicle chases temporary while the department reviews its protocol. Chief Shields’ response comes shortly after two recent deadly crashes involving police chases. Shields and other local law enforcement officials are seeking the help of legislators to review existing laws. Ideally, they hope to reduce real-life instances that prompt police pursuit altogether. Chief Shields firmly believes burglars, robbers and auto theft suspects need to be arrested. However, the lives of innocent bystanders should not be in jeopardy.
The City of Atlanta, like many jurisdictions, allows police officers to pursue a vehicle if either of the following conditions are met:
● A suspect has a deadly weapon
● A suspect poses an immediate threat of violence to officers or others
● A suspect is believed to have committed or threatened serious physical harm
In 2018, thirty-two deadly traffic crashes involving police pursuits were reported statewide. According to The Fatality Analysis Reporting System, five non-involved people were killed. Some were occupants of a non-involved vehicle; the others were pedestrians. In these crashes, the question of liability often arises. Too often the suspect, being pursued in connection with a theft or other crime, does not have valid auto insurance coverage. The pursuing officer will not individually be held liable for the injury and state sovereign immunity laws may shield the police agency from liability.
Therefore, every motorist should purchase Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance coverage to protect you and your family in the event an officer involved high speed chase ensues nearby. Certainly you never expect to be involved in an accident with an uninsured driver. However, if it happens, your UM/UIM insurance guarantees compensation for physical and psychological injuries sustained as a result.