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Fleeing Motorist Kills Bystander

by | May 13, 2019 | Car Accidents, Firm News, Injuries

A local man faces murder charges after he fled from police and struck another vehicle. Can a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer help the victim’s family deal with this tragedy?

Shortly after 6 p.m., officers responded to a disturbance call in North Minneapolis. They came upon two drivers who may have been engaged in drug activity. Officers spoke with both motorists, but suddenly, 27-year-old Trevon Xavier Miguel McMorris, of Brooklyn Park, ran to his vehicle and fled the scene. Officers immediately gave chase. The pursuit ended not far away, when Mr. McMorris collided with 50-year-old Jose Angel Madrid Salcido’s vehicle. First responders rushed Mr. Salcido to a nearby hospital with serious injuries. He did not survive.

Officers booked Mr. McMorris into jail as they work up a murder case against him.

High-Speed Police Chase Statistics

Twenty-five years ago, the Department of Justice warned local law enforcement agencies to curtail the use of high-speed chases, particularly in non-violent cases. But it is still very common for police officers to recklessly pursue individuals, even if they are accused of very minor crimes.

On the record, officers will point out that most violent felons are apprehended after routine traffic stops for unrelated crimes. They will also point out that they cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce.

Off the record, the explanation is different. Many officers like the thrill of the high-speed chase. They simply cannot pass on the adrenaline rush. As a result, high-speed chases are at least tolerated, if not outright encouraged.

High-speed police chases kill hundreds of people each year. That figure far eclipses the number of fatal officer-involved shootings and also exceeds the number of tornado, hurricane, and other natural disaster victims. About a third of the high-speed chase victims are innocent bystanders, like the one in the above story.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Your Claim for Damages

During these pursuits, police officers obviously have quite a bit of latitude. They need not obey the rules of the road when their emergency lights are flashing and their sirens are wailing. However, this immunity is not unlimited. Victims may have claims against the police department in the following situations:

  • Extreme Recklessness: Police officers have a very difficult job. Before they chase a suspect, they must consider things like the time of day and the area of town. It might be reasonable to chase a vehicle at high speeds if traffic is light and there are few people around. But a crowd may change this dynamic. Even though it’s hard to do so, police officers still have a duty to perform such an analysis.
  • Policy Violation: Many departments have permanent, written policies which prohibit high-speed chases. Unfortunately, even the most sternly-worded policy still gives officers considerable discretion. Alternatively, there might be an ad hoc policy, like a dispatcher’s “do not pursue” order.

Many police departments are already experimenting with James Bond-type devices, such as shootable GPS trackers, which may eliminate the need for high-speed chases.

Even if individual officers caused the wreck, the police department which employs them is legally responsible for damages. According to the respondeat superior rule, employers are liable for the negligent acts their employees commit during the course and scope of employment. Other employer liability theories include negligent hiring and negligent supervision.

Compensation Available

These third-party liability theories are especially important in wrongful death and other catastrophic injury claims. Many times, the individual tortfeasor (negligent driver) does not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation to the victim/plaintiff.

Brainerd, MN accident lawyers can usually obtain compensation for tangible economic losses, such as medical bills and lost wages. In car crash claims, medical providers generally do not charge any upfront fees. They agree to wait until the case is resolved to get paid. Additionally, lost wages must consider not only time away from work, but also lost productivity while at work.

Additional compensation is usually available for noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, and emotional distress. Generally, to calculate these damages, a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer multiplies the economic damages by two, three, or four. That value is a good starting point for pretrial settlement negotiations. These talks resolve most Crow Wing County car wreck claims.

Count on Hard-Hitting Attorneys

Officer-caused car crashes often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.