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Tom Hastings
Tom Hastings
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Legal Issues Surrounding IMPD Police Cruiser Ramming Motorcyclists

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On Friday August 6th, a police officer from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department ran into the rear of two motorcycles causing one death and severely injuring two other motorcyclists. The police officer was reportedly on a run to assist other officers in serving a warrant. The accident occurred at 11:20 on a Friday morning on the North East side of Indianapolis while the motorcyclists were on a lunch break from their jobs.

Even though the police officer had his emergency lights and sirens on, the motorcycles that were stopped could not move to the right, as required by Indiana law, because of other stopped traffic. The State of Indiana Code states that an emergency vehicle while responding with red lights and siren should have the right of way.

IC 9-21-8-35 Emergency Vehicles: yield of right-of-way. Section 35. (a) Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle, when the person who drives the authorized emergency vehicle is giving audible signal by siren or displaying alternately flashing red, red and white, or red and blue lights, a person who drives another vehicle shall do the following unless otherwise directed by a law enforcement officer: (1) Yield the right of way. (2) Immediately drive to a position parallel to and as close to the right hand edge or curb of the high way clear of any intersection. (3) Stop and remain in the position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.

With the traffic stopped in other lanes and in front of the motorcycles, to stop and remain in position was the only option, according to a friend that was also riding a motorcycle with the group. He was not involved in the crash.

Tuesday the news media reported the police officer’s blood alcohol content was .19, well above the state limit. Indiana law states a driver with a BAC above .08 is legally impaired. The Officer is on desk assignment until the police chief and Prosecutor’s Office decide, if any, what charges will be filed. [UPDATE: The officer was charged in the accident today.]

Indiana Code 34-13-3 addresses tort claim filings against government entities and public employees and specifically addresses the damages. IC 34-13-3-4 states:

(a)The combined aggregate liability of all government entities and of all public employees, acting within the scope of their employment and not excluded from liability under section 3 of this chapter, does not exceed:

(1) for injury to or death of one person in any one occurrence:

(C) Seven hundred thousand dollars (700,000) for any cause of action that accrues on or after January 1, 2008;

(2) for injury to or death of all persons in that occurrence, five million dollars ($5,000,000).

(b) A governmental entity or an employee of a governmental entity acting within the scope of employment is not liable for punitive damages.

For more information on Indiana tort law, see the Law and Justice section of IN.gov.