A Police Officer’s Advantage

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Q: As I drove my patrol car on the Thruway, on duty, it struck the tire rim of a vehicle.  The rim had been torn off during an accident and was lying in the lane.

A: Under the emergency doctrine, when a driver or other person is faced with a sudden and unexpected circumstance – leaving little or no time for thought, deliberation or consideration, or causing the driver reasonably to be so disturbed that the driver must make a speedy decision without weighing alternative courses of conduct – the driver is not negligent if her actions are reasonable and prudent in the emergency context.

Accordingly, it is difficult to hold this driver responsible for the actions she took after her emergency situation arose.  Rather, your best legal position is that the defendant, due to something like excessive speed or inattention, either drove her car off the road or failed to see debris in the road that she should have seen

Because you were a police officer on duty, you can proceed under General Municipal Law § 205-e rather than under general principles of common-law negligence.  The disadvantage of section 205-e is that you must identify a specific governmental statute or ordinance with which the defendant failed to comply.  Mere ‘failure to use due care’ will not suffice.

The advantage of section 205-e is that you need not prove that your own accident was “proximately caused” by the driver’s violation.  The statute requires only that a police officer’s own accident “occurs directly or indirectly as a result” of the violation.  The courts deem this a degree of connection that is easier for you to meet than proximate cause.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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