In the beginning of April 2019, a Spokane County law enforcement officer's vehicle was struck by a sports utility vehicle at the intersection of Highway 2 and Farwell Road. At the time the accident occurred, the law enforcement officer's lights and sirens were on. A driver who was headed in an opposing direction, however, was unable to see the police vehicle. Following the collision between the two vehicles, the oncoming driver was taken to a nearby medical facility to receive medical treatment. Fortunately, the officer, who was responding to reports of shots fired at the time of the crash, was not injured.
In Washington, if you are injured in an accident involving a law enforcement or any other type of government actor, state law allows you to initiate legal action against the responsible party. This law exists in contrast to those in a number of other states that follow the concept of “sovereign immunity.” Under sovereign immunity, a government actor is immune from facing any liability for an accident with the exception of only a few situations. The following will take a brief look at some important liability issues you should know if you are involved in a Washington accident with law enforcement or any other type of government actor.
Police Officer Liability after Washington Accidents
In 1961, the state of Washington passed a law that removed the protection that law enforcement officers have when accidents occur. There are some limits, however, to this body of law. For one, a claim initiated against the state of Washington must be connected to the government actor's actions to the same degree as if a private entity had caused the accident. As a result, the same legal limits involving accidents apply to law enforcement as they would apply to other individuals. It is also important to understand that in addition to pursuing legal action against a government actor, these liability laws in Washington apply to accidents caused by the negligence of government volunteers.
Initiating an Accident Claim Against a Washington Police Officer
All accident claims that an individual initiates against a law enforcement officer or other state actor must be presented to the Office of Risk Management through the use of a claim form. Some of the other important regulations that a person should make sure to follow in initiating these claims include:
- To present a claim, a form must be delivered either in person, through the mail, through email, or through a fax to the Office of Risk Management.
- In completing the form, a person must present certain information including a person's contact information, a description of the accident, a description of any injuries that resulted from the accident, and details about whatever is known about the individual who caused the accident.
- After filing the form, a person must wait 60 days before initiating a personal injury lawsuit.
Contact a Knowledgeable Spokane Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one was injured in a collision with a police vehicle, do not hesitate to contact West Law Office today to schedule a free consultation.
(image courtesy of Matt Popovich)