Hammond, Indiana Car Accident Lawsuit Alleges Sheriff Deputy, Department, Negligent

A severe brain injury stemming from a car accident in Hammond, Indiana two years ago is the basis of a personal injury lawsuit filed against the Lake County Sheriff’s Department and its deputy after the law enforcement officer allegedly ran a red light and t-boned another driver. NWItimes.com reports the officer told the investigating agency, a local police department, that he’d been “in the process of” turning on his sirens and emergency lights in order to initiate a stop on a suspected drunk driver at the intersection of Gostlin Street and Columbia Avenue in the Irving neighborhood when the collision occurred.

As our Hammond car accident lawyers understand it, the plaintiff alleges that the officer disregarded the red traffic signal, traveled at high speeds and did not act with reasonable care by failing to turn on his siren or emergency lights to alert other motorists. The officer did not maintain a proper lookout or press the brakes before proceeding through the intersection, the plaintiff alleges. The cruiser struck plaintiff’s pickup truck, which then overturned several times.

The plaintiff suffered numerous injuries, including a traumatic brain injury that is irreversible and which impairs his physical activity, and causes him pain and mental suffering and loss of life enjoyment. Adding to defendant’s alleged culpability, the plaintiff points to the department having a higher-than-average number of collisions involving deputies in pursuit, and the department’s continued lack of training and supervision despite this knowledge. The plaintiff’s injury lawyer also raised the issue of the sheriff’s office demanding to take over investigation of the crash from the Hammond Police Department, despite (at the least) a clear appearance of bias. Police officers did indicate the cause of the crash was apparently the deputy’s failure to yield and traveling at unsafe speeds, though the officer was not cited.¬†

Hammond Injury Lawyers: Law Enforcement Pursuit Standards

IC-9-19-14-3 notes that in the case of an immediate pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law, the operator of an emergency vehicle must sound the vehicle’s siren as “reasonably necessary” to warn pedestrians and other approaching drivers.” Lights and sirens “in the process” of being activated while the emergency vehicle is traveling through an intersection is unlikely to be considered adequate warning.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reported an estimated 68,000 police vehicle pursuits occurred each year in the U.S., with about 355 people a year (roughly one daily) being killed as a result of crashes in these pursuits. Some were involved in the chase, while others, like this plaintiff, were innocent bystanders. Although about 10 percent of law enforcement agencies covering populations of fewer than 10,000 have no policy at all, many agencies are rethinking their policies as to when such pursuits should be permissible – precisely because they can be so very unsafe.

One report by USA Today in 2015 found high-speed police chases have killed more than 5,000 innocent bystanders, including small children, teen drivers and the elderly, between 1979 and 2013. Offenses for which the pursuit began included violations like running red lights, shoplifting and failure to activate one’s headlights.

Yet implementation of discretionary pursuit policies declined from 17 percent to 11 percent in a recent 10-year span. While some police agencies ban police pursuits altogether, most policies stipulate pursuits are reserved only for the most serious of felonies. Within agencies that give officers broad discretion, injury is more likely. This is especially true given when some police training instructors have referred to as “tunnel vision,” meaning the pursuing officer gets a rush of adrenaline and an intense focus on catching the subject – rather than on surrounding traffic and innocent people.

As Hammond car accident lawyers can explain, an increasing number of Indiana courts have held that police may be held negligent for being a concurrent cause of a chase-induced accident – even when the actual collision involves plaintiff and a third party. If an officer is the proximate cause of a pursuit-related crash, the agency may be held liable. State and federal law is not going to protect an officer or the agency when an officer shows reckless disregard for the nature of a call (i.e., initiating pursuit for a misdemeanor).

Damages for Indiana Car Accident Brain Injury

Damages for traumatic brain injury will often depend on severity. Victims of traumatic brain injury may pursue damages such as:

  • Medical expenses;
  • Lost wages;
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Humiliation and embarrassment;
  • Shock and mental anguish;
  • Loss of reputation;
  • Loss of consortium (made by injured person’s spouse).

If you have questions about the damages to which you may be entitled, contact our dedicated Hammond car accident attorneys today.

Indiana Injury Attorney Burton A. Padove handles personal injury claims throughout northern Indiana, including Highland, Gary and Hammond. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.

Additional Resources:

Hammond man with irreversible brain injury sues Lake County Sheriff’s Dept., others for negligence in 2016 crash, Nov. 23, 2018, By Lauren Cross, NWITimes.com

More Blog Entries:

Indiana Drunk Driving Injury Lawsuit Verdict of $21 Million Affirmed, Nov. 2, 2018, Hammond Car Accident Attorney Blog