The Nebraska Legislature some years ago found it appropriate to protect the innocent public from police chases that take place, anywhere within the state, by making the police strictly liable to an innocent person who is injured or damaged as a result of a police chase without regard to fault. A case handed down last Friday from the Nebraska Supreme Court further delineated the protection affirming a lower court’s decision to award damages to innocent people when the police claim the chase has ended.
A law enforcement officer’s decision and action to terminate a vehicular
pursuit do not instantaneously eliminate the danger to innocent third parties
contemplated in Neb. Rev. Stat. Â§ 13-911 (Reissue 1997). That danger continues
until the motorist reasonably perceives that the pursuit has ended and has an
opportunity to discontinue the hazardous, evasive driving behaviors contemplated
in the statute. Thus, whether an injury to an innocent third party is proximately
caused by the action of a law enforcement officer during vehicular pursuit is a
question of fact which must necessarily be determined on a case-by-case basis.
There are mixed opinions regarding this law. Is it fair to make the city, county, or state pay someone simply becasue the police engaged in the pursuit of a criminal? Is it fair to an innocent person using the streets to be harmed because the police, by initiating the pursuit of a criminal, put them in harm’s way. This state has chosen to protect its citizens by making the police reponsible for any results of a police chase. Our experience in the State of Nebraska is that our police have introduced strict guidelines which must be met before entering into a pursuit.