The short answer to the question posed above is yes, police officers in California can be sued civilly for negligence. However, your window to sue them is limited. Below is an example of a recent lawsuit against the City of Bakersfield under a negligence theory.
A doctor, after working a 12-hour shift at a hospital, suffered a medical emergency while driving home. His car jumped the curb, exited the roadway, and came to a stop. A witness called 911 and reported a suspected intoxicated driver. The police arrived at the scene of the accident and interviewed the witness caller first. The police next attempted to interview the doctor but found he was incoherent. The police asked the doctor for the key to his car, and the doctor instead tried to start the car. The police then removed the doctor from the car and called an ambulance.
When the ambulance arrived, the police and paramedic could not agree regarding the condition of the doctor. The ambulance company claims they advised the police that the doctor should be taken to the hospital. The police claim no such recommendation was made by the paramedic. The ambulance left the scene of the accident without the doctor. Other police arrived at the scene. The doctor was reassessed and it was determined that an ambulance was needed. A second ambulance was called to the accident scene and arrived seven minutes later.
At the hospital, the doctor was diagnosed with a stroke. Specifically, he had excessive bleeding in the brain. He underwent immediate surgery, but suffered permanent damage - the doctor was no longer able to care for himself. The doctor and his wife sued the police and ambulance company. Harb v. City of Bakersfield, 233 Cal, App 4th 606, 183 Cal reporter 3d 59 (2015).
California Law Regarding Public Employee Negligence
Under California Government Code Section 820(a), public employees may be held liable to the same extent as a private person under general tort principles. When liability arises, the entity is typically vicariously liable under Government Code Section 815.2, unless an immunity applies. To state a negligence claim, a plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty to use due care and question of whether a legal duty exists is analyzed under general tort principles by the fact finder.
California Statute of Limitations regarding Public Employee Negligence
The statute of limitations, or the time that you have to file and commence your lawsuit for negligence against a public employee, for personal injury is two years from the date of injury. If your lawsuit is against a municipality, government agency, or public employee, the statute of limitations is six months. Moreover there are some additional procedural steps a plaintiff must follow in order to file his or her claim. California Government Code Section 335.1.
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Police officer or paramedic negligence has the potential to compound injuries suffered by a driver following an accident. If you or a loved one sustained serious injuries or other catastrophic injury following a car crash, contact The Law Offices of Brian Brandt today to schedule your free case evaluation.