Alameda Police Chase in Webster Tube Ends in Serious Injury Auto Accident
On October 5, 2010, the Alameda police were involved in a serious injury accident. A police officer chased a suspected drunk driver into the Webster Tube. The drunk driver had been pulled over by the police and then abruptly took off entering the tunnel against traffic. The drunk driver then crashed his car into an oncoming vehicle causing serious injuries to that driver. The injured driver was transported by ambulance in critical condition to Oakland’s Highland Hospital. In August, Oakland police injured innocent bystanders when they engaged in a high speed chase on the streets of Oakland.
Police chases such as these seem to becoming more frequent. Predictably, police chases often result in serious injury accidents. According to a study by the California Highway Patrol, 29% of police chases ended in accidents during the time studied.
What is the legal responsibility of a city for injuries caused in a high speed police chase? Under California law, a city is responsible for any injury caused by the negligent driving of its employees (Vehicle code section 17001). Officers must comply with the traffic laws unless they are using their red lights and siren. However, a city is immune from liability for automobile accidents caused in high speed chases if it adopts a written policy pursuant to Vehicle Code section 17004.7. The policy must cover such items as when and under what circumstances a chase should be initiated and terminated.
As an Oakland personal injury lawyer, I question the usefulness of most high speed police chases. Often we see that police are causing serious injuries to the innocent driving public, in pursuit of criminals suspected of relatively minor offenses. Are the risks to the public really worth the benefit of catching a petty criminal?
Oakland Tribune, Alameda: Police arrest two afte collision in Webster Tube, October 5, 2010