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Georgia Court Affirms Immunity Defense in Car Accident Case Resulting From Police Chase

Car accidents on Georgia roadways are often the result of negligence on behalf of at least one driver. And unfortunately, these accidents tend to cause injuries to innocent drivers and their passengers in increasing numbers. At the very least, however, injured victims and their families may be entitled to legal recourse to recover for their suffering and losses. In order to successfully bring a personal injury claim to recover damages for injuries from a car accident, the plaintiff must plead and prove negligence, which includes several elements. Identifying the essential elements and the proof needed to sustain an action is a complicated process. If you have been the victim of a car accident, you are encouraged to consult with an experienced Atlanta injury attorney as soon as possible.

It is important to be aware of the myriad defenses an allegedly negligent driver may be able to assert in a personal injury case. For instance, whenever a car or other vehicle accident involves a government entity, there is a possibility that the “defendant” (municipality) may be entitled to assert an immunity defense from liability, or being sued generally. Specifically, under Georgia law, states are not liable for losses resulting from the failure to provide, or the method of providing, law enforcement, police, or fire protection. This statute was interpreted in a recent Georgia case, Loehle et al. v. Georgia Department of Public Safety et al. (Ga. Ct. of App. 2015).

According to the facts, the plaintiffs were injured in a car accident involving a vehicle that was the subject of a police chase on Atlanta roads. The plaintiffs brought this action, alleging (among other things) that the troopers who initiated the chase failed to properly follow police policies regarding the pursuit of a suspect. Essentially, the plaintiffs claimed that the troopers were negligent in carrying out certain Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) policies.

The trial court granted the DPS motion to dismiss, based on sovereign immunity grounds. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the DPS waived such immunity because the officers violated various policies by:  1) chasing the suspect at excessive speeds and traveling through multiple red lights; 2) initiating pursuit in heavy traffic and traveling down a one-way street in the wrong direction; and 3) maintaining pursuit despite the presence of an aerial unit that was monitoring the situation.

The court of appeals affirmed the lower court’s findings that the troopers appropriately implemented the law enforcement policies of the DPS when initiating pursuit of the stolen, previously carjacked car. The court concluded that the record below supported the trial court’s findings and ruled that the DPS did not waive immunity from suit. In so holding, the court reviewed testimony from one of the troopers involved in the chase and further distinguished certain case law cited by the plaintiffs.

In this case, the plaintiffs were unable to successfully bring a negligence action against the defendants. It is extremely important to properly analyze the facts and surrounding circumstances of a case in order to determine whether you may be entitled to compensation for the injuries sustained. An experienced attorney who handles car accident claims would be able to assess your case to determine the likelihood of success on the merits. Stephen M. Ozcomert is an injury attorney with over 20 years of experience handling car accident cases, representing individuals who have been injured as a result of another’s negligence in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Call us today at (404) 370-1000 to schedule a free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.

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