Who Is At Fault If The Southfield Police Department Damages My Car?
The first thing you do following a car accident is to contact the police. However, what happens if a Southfield police officer is responsible for the accident that caused damage to your vehicle? In Michigan, you may be able to sue the city for compensation, but the process is more complex than the standard auto accident case. Additionally, you may need the help of a personal injury attorney with experience representing victims of auto accidents.
What Should You Do Following a Police-Involved Accident To Protect Your Right to Compensation?
Car accidents can leave victims with significant financial losses while recovering from the physical and psychological damage these accidents can cause. In the immediate aftermath, there are a few steps you can take to protect your rights and help you build a solid claim for compensation:
- Request a copy of the accident report. The officer who caused the accident will likely radio dispatch immediately to report the crash. You can request a copy of the accident report filed by the responding officers because it is available to the public.
- Document everything you can. Take photographs of the scene, including pictures of both vehicles, preferably in their positions when the collision occurred. Also include visual documentation of the surrounding area, your injuries, and any road signage.
- Talk to eyewitnesses. Gather the contact information for anyone who may have witnessed the accident, including people in surrounding buildings. For example, a building manager may have access to security camera footage that recorded the accident.
- Get a complete medical evaluation. You may initially feel fine, but you should still see a doctor immediately. You can go straight from the scene to the hospital emergency department or a nearby urgent care facility. These are better options than seeing your primary care physician because emergency care doctors have more experience working with auto accident victims.
- Avoid discussing the case with the officer involved. In general, you should avoid speaking about the accident with anyone other than your lawyer and the medical staff. This includes refraining from using social media.
- Speak with an experienced auto accident lawyer. Car accidents involving the police can be confusing and complex. An attorney will advise you and help you make choices that will preserve your claim.
Time is of the essence in the aftermath of a car crash involving an officer. For example, seeing a doctor as soon as possible creates a medical record of your injuries that acts as crucial evidence should the officer claim you were not injured. On the other hand, waiting too long to see a doctor allows them to argue that you sustained your injuries elsewhere. Additionally, waiting too long to speak with an attorney could lead to mistakes that may damage your case.
Can You Sue the Police Officer Who Caused the Accident?
You can sue a police officer for causing an accident that resulted in injuries. However, you will need to prove the following:
- That the officer does not have governmental immunity because their actions were negligent
- That the officer’s negligent actions directly resulted in the accident
- That the accident caused severe bodily injury, resulting in significant impairment, and substantial property damage
Without these three elements, you will not be able to recover damages. For example, if the accident were a minor fender bender that resulted in minimal property damage and no bodily harm, you would not be able to file a lawsuit seeking compensation, even if you can prove the officer’s actions constituted an exception to the state governmental immunity.
Michigan Governmental Immunity Act
In Michigan, government employees who cause accidents while performing their jobs are generally safe from liability. However, as previously stated, you can still sue if the government employee clearly behaved negligently. The government motor vehicle exception allows you to sue for injuries sustained when the officer’s vehicle was in operation. Regardless, injuries must meet the state threshold for serious injury, enabling you to bypass the no-fault insurance laws.
Can You Turn to Your Own Insurance for Coverage in Michigan?
Michigan is a no-fault auto insurance state. Anyone operating a registered vehicle must purchase no-fault auto insurance and all other mandatory auto policies. No-fault insurance allows you to avoid the complexities of determining who is at fault for an accident and file a claim through your own provider.
Four Types of Auto Insurance Required in Michigan
Michigan requires a minimum of four types of coverage for all licensed drivers and registered vehicles. The four types include:
- Property damage insurance. You must carry a minimum of $10,000 of property damage coverage to cover the cost of another person’s property damage if you are at fault for the accident.
- Personal injury protection insurance. The state mandates PIP insurance to cover expenses related to your bodily injuries in the event of an accident. Liability is not an issue. Therefore, whether you are responsible for the accident or not, PIP insurance will cover necessary medical expenses, transportation to and from medical appointments, 85% of lost wages if injuries render you unable to perform your job duties, $20 to support replacement services, and the cost of necessary attendant care.
- Residual bodily injury liability insurance. Residual BI liability coverage protects you from liability for another person’s damages if you cause an accident that results in physical harm to another.
- Property protection insurance. PPI covers damage to someone else’s property, including vehicles, buildings, foliage, and other tangible objects.
If you suffer injuries due to a car accident and want to sue for the damages those injuries incur, you will have to meet the threshold for serious injury set by the state.
The Threshold for Serious Injury
In Michigan, you can bypass the no-fault insurance requirement and file a claim for damages if you suffered an injury that caused severe impairment of bodily function or resulted in severe disfigurement. Additionally, an estate representative can file a claim the injuries resulted in death. In auto accidents involving a police officer, this threshold for serious injury applies as long as you can prove the situation warrants an exception to governmental immunity.
Additionally, if you can avoid the no-fault insurance requirement for bodily harm, you could also claim non-economic damages. PIP insurance does not cover non-economic losses, such as physical and emotional pain and suffering. However, if you use the civil court system or file a claim with the other party’s insurance policy, you can seek damages for the crash’s emotional impact on your well-being. The accident would have to result in significant losses to recover these damages.
Do You Need an Auto Accident Lawyer if the Police Are Responsible for Your Accident?
Any auto accident can quickly become complex, but when the at-fault party in your case is a Southfield police officer, it can be significantly more challenging to recover your losses by holding them responsible. If you have questions about your right to compensation following an auto accident caused by a police officer, you will benefit from speaking with a Michigan auto accident lawyer as soon as possible. Our team at Mike Morse Law Firm can help you make the best choice given the legal options available to you and will do what it takes to protect your rights. Contact an attorney at (855) 738-2606 to speak with an experienced auto accident attorney today.