In a typical Maryland car accident case, plaintiffs may recover damages if they establish that the negligence of the other driver caused their injuries. In collisions involving government or police officer vehicles, however, the issue of immunity may arise, as in a July 22, 2019 case. The question before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland was whether a police officer could claim partial immunity under a statute that provided immunity for operators of emergency vehicles.
The plaintiff in the case had suffered injuries as a result of a car accident involving a police officer. The accident occurred as the police officer, responding to a call for an assault in progress, drove towards the location to serve as backup for another officer. The officer and other witnesses testified that she had activated her vehicle’s emergency lights and siren before approaching an intersection. As she proceeded through the intersection, the plaintiff’s car collided with the front end of the police officer’s car. The plaintiff subsequently filed suit to recover damages stemming from the accident.
The police officer claimed immunity under a statute for emergency service responders. Under the Maryland law, the operator of an emergency vehicle is granted partial immunity when the vehicle is involved in an accident that occurs in the performance of emergency service. After the trial court concluded that the police officer was entitled to such immunity, the plaintiff’s claims were dismissed. She then pursued an appeal with the higher court.
On appeal, the court found that it was undisputed that the police car was an emergency vehicle for purposes of Maryland’s immunity statute. The primary issue, therefore, was whether the officer was performing an emergency service at the time of the accident. The plaintiff argued that the officer was not responding to an emergency call, because the officer was dispatched as backup.
The court concluded that the officer was in fact performing an emergency call when she responded to another officer’s request for backup. The court explained that classifying a dispatch call for an assault in progress as an emergency was consistent with the language of Maryland statutes defining emergency, as well as the natural and ordinary meaning of the phrase “emergency call.” Accordingly, the court ruled that the officer was performing an emergency service and was entitled to partial immunity.
In Maryland, an officer enjoying partial immunity is only liable for acts of gross negligence, defined as an intentional failure to perform a manifest duty in reckless disregard of the consequences. After reviewing the evidence, the appeals court noted that the officer had followed proper police procedures by activating her lights, and that the officer had stopped before crossing the interaction, while driving below the speed limit. The court held that no jury could find the officer’s conduct grossly negligent based on the evidence, thus affirming the judgment of the lower court.
If you have been hurt in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, you may be able to recover your medical expenses and other losses. At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland personal injury lawyers represent accident victims in lawsuits arising out of auto collisions, medical malpractice, slip and fall injuries, and other types of negligence. To discuss your injury with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, call Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online to schedule an appointment today.