Florida Wrongful Death Laws Change

“Police Chase Ends in Wrongful Death of Innocent Motorist…”

Sadly, this is a headline we have already read a few times this year. There is another story to this issue that probably will not make the headlines, but it deserves attention nonetheless.

In 2006, the Florida Legislature gave police additional legal protection in the area of police chases. In the Florida Wrongful Death Act, the burden for causing someone else’s death should be borne by the person who caused the wrongful death. Granted, we can all agree that the motorist who fled when the lights and sirens were turned on should have stopped. At this point, all the facts are not known and it may well be that the all the fault starts and stops with the fleeing motorists. I learned a long time ago that making a decision without all the facts is problematic.

Though the facts are still being reviewed, the law was changed effective June 20, 2006. Police agencies are not liable for injury, death, or property damage effected or caused by a person fleeing from a law enforcement officer in a motor vehicle if:

  1. The pursuit is conducted in a manner that does not involve conduct by the officer which is so reckless or wanting in care as to constitute a disregard of human life, human rights, safety, or the property of another;
  2. At the time the law enforcement officer initiates pursuit, the officer reasonably believes that the person fleeing has committed a forcible felony as defined in s. 776.08; and
  3. The pursuit is conducted by the officer pursuant to a written policy governing high-speed pursuit adopted by the employing agency. The policy must contain specific procedures concerning the proper method to initiate and terminate high-speed pursuit. The law enforcement officer must have received instructional training from the employing agency on the written policy governing high-speed pursuit.

The law cited above comes from Florida Statute § 768.28(9)(d)1, 2, 3 and the Florida Wrongful Death Act starts at Florida Statute §768.18 and ends at §768.27.

All citizens of Florida should be aware of this dramatic change from one section of law to the next!

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