As he was fleeing from officers, a Quogue man was driving over 100mph when he crashed head-on into a Prius, according to evidence obtained from the vehicle.
The crash killed four people who were inside the Prius. Another passenger was critically injured.
According to Village Police Chief Christopher Isola, a Quogue officer spotted a Maxima traveling on the wrong side of the road at a high rate of speed.
The officer immediately blacked out (deactivated his lights), spun around, and sped after the Maxima. “When this vehicle passed me, it appeared as the vehicle was traveling at over 100 miles per hour, which sounded like a race car, taking my breath away,” one witness said.
“Next, I saw a police car with emergency lights on around 100 yards or 10-15 seconds behind the red car, with the police car not making any headway of closing the distance between them.”
The 22-year-old Maxima driver, who had apparently not committed any criminal offense, was also killed in the wreck.
High-Speed Police Chases
Occasionally, speed-related collisions are straightforward matters, at least from a fault perspective. Liability, or legal responsibility for damages, is usually a much more complex question, especially when a high-speed police chase is involved.
Almost no one disputes the fact that high-speed police chases are extremely risky.
But these victims face some additional legal hurdles. Most of them stem from the sovereign immunity doctrine.
This rule, which originated in the Middle Ages, prevents people from suing their governments.
Today, the sovereign immunity rule only applies in limited circumstances.
For example, taxpayers cannot sue the IRS because taxes are too high. The rule hardly ever applies to individuals. Under New York law, police chase victims can usually file legal claims if:
- Policy Violation: Legally, police officers are negligent when they ignore the rules they themselves make. Although a number of agencies have written anti-chase directives, these policies usually give police officers a great deal of discretion. On-the-spot anti-chase policies, like a superior officer’s “do not pursue” order, are sometimes more persuasive.
- Extreme Recklessness: Sovereign immunity protects police officers as they execute their duties. But this immunity is not unlimited. Some factors to consider include the nature of the suspect’s alleged offense, time of day, methods officers used, traffic conditions, area of town, and any available alternatives.
Electronic Evidence in Car Wreck Claims
Anti-chase devices are recent innovations. The Event Data Recorder, which is perhaps the most powerful bit of electronic evidence in a car wreck claim, has been around since the 1970s.
The earliest crude models had limited functions. Today’s EDRs are much more sophisticated. Much like black box flight data recorders in commercial jets, EDRs usually measure and record information like:
- Vehicle speed,
- Airbag deployment,
- Engine RPM,
- Brake application, and
- Steering angle.
As the above story highlights, EDR information is very specific and therefore very persuasive in court.
Eyewitnesses may testify that the driver was speeding. But EDR evidence gives the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) precise speed at a precise moment in time.
Furthermore, electronic evidence, like DER data, is practically bulletproof in court. Insurance company lawyers can use several different methods to undermine eyewitness testimony.
But assuming the gadget was working properly, it’s almost impossible to successfully challenge EDR information.
Just like there are some hurdles in police chase-related wrecks, a New York personal injury attorney must overcome some additional hurdles to use EDR evidence in court.
There are some technical issues.
These devices are very sophisticated. A lot more than a screwdriver and a laptop is needed to access these gadgets, download the information they contain, and effectively present that information in court.
The legal hurdles could be even bigger. The Empire State has very strict vehicle information privacy laws. Normally, only the vehicle’s owner can legally tap into these devices.
Therefore, New York personal injury attorneys normally need court orders before they can think about touching EDRs.
This discussion assumes these devices are available at all. Most insurance companies destroy wrecked vehicles a few hours after a serious accident. If that happens, the EDR, and any other physical evidence, is lost forever.
So, attorneys normally send spoliation letters to insurance companies. These letters create a legal duty to preserve the EDR, and any other physical evidence, for future inspection and possible use.
Collecting compelling evidence is the best way, and usually the only way, to obtain the maximum amount of damages in a personal injury claim.
These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in some extreme circumstances.
Vehicle collisions usually cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.