A police chase ran through four states before ending in St. Joseph, Missouri with a car accident that left five people hurt.
The incident raises an important question: Who pays the victims?
Police Chase Ends in Car Crash in St. Joseph
A group of people stole cars from a dealership in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and led police on a long car chase down Interstate 29. The chase caused multiple crashes on the highway between Sioux Falls and St. Joseph.
One of the vehicles left the interstate in St. Joseph, at exit 47 near the East Ridge Village Shopping Center. The driver lost control trying to turn right into the westbound lanes of Frederick Boulevard, crashing into several cars at the intersection. Five people were hurt in the crash.
The suspect tried to flee on foot, but was arrested by police.
Car Insurance Only Pays Covered Victims
The innocent victims in the crash face a long road to recovery, and deserve to be compensated for their losses.
Unfortunately, in a police chase situation, the driver of the fleeing car is often unable to pay for much and there are typically very few insurance companies involved: The fleeing driver rarely has insurance, and the insurance company that covers the vehicle almost never covers accidents that happen after the vehicle has been stolen. This leaves the victim’s insurance company, if he or she has one, as the only place to turn.
In Missouri, drivers are legally required to have insurance that includes uninsured motorist coverage. This covers an injured driver if they have been in a crash that was caused by someone who does not have insurance. However, that uninsured motorist coverage often only pays for the bare minimum, and might not be enough to cover all of the expenses necessary to make a full recovery.
Police Can Also Be At Fault for a Police Chase
Importantly, the suspect fleeing from police is not always the only one at fault for a police chase – many police departments have protocols that require officers to stop chasing a suspect once the public is in danger. If the fleeing car causes an accident that hurts people, then police are often at least partially at fault because the chase has put the public in danger and should have been aborted.
Percentage of Fault Matters
The exact percentage of who was at fault for the crash – whether it was the fleeing suspect or the police officer in pursuit – matters because Missouri adheres to the joint and several liability rule.
Under joint and several liability, which Missouri codified at M.R.S. 537.067, the victim of a car crash can recover all of their damages from anyone who was more than half at fault for the accident.
In the context of a police chase, then, if the police are found to be 51% or more at fault for your injuries, and those injuries amounted to $100,000, then you could recover all $100,000 from the police. However, if the police were only 50% at fault, then you could only recover $50,000 from them, and would have to rely on the driver of the fleeing vehicle for the rest.