The old adage that police have the role to “protect and serve” citizens is generally the standard that law enforcement and police officers are held to. While the vast majority of the time police do in fact “protect and serve” the residents of Ontario, there are sometimes unfortunate incidents where citizens are injured at the hands of those who are supposed to protect them.
The instances where police may injure citizens represent an entire spectrum of possibilities. For example, there are the more traditional types of injuries that might occur such as a police car colliding with another vehicle. However, there are also instances where the police cause personal injuries to citizens while completing an arrest. Sometimes the injured party is a participant in the pursuit or arrest and other times, the citizen may be an innocent bystander.
Cases involving issues of potential liability by the police for injuries caused to third parties are complicated because they often cross legal issues that cover torts, administrative, criminal, and constitutional law issues.
The types of law involved in a potential police liability case for injuries can be impacted by whether the injured party is merely a bystander or a potential criminal that is being pursued by the police officer.
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Motor vehicle accidents involving police
In general, if a police officer causes a motor vehicle accident to a third party while in the course of duty, liability can be assigned based on typical theories of negligence. This would be addressed through the insurance system and there are potentially special rules that apply to claims involving negligence by governmental employees.
There can be exceptions to this general rule depending on the facts and circumstances involved in a particular case. For example, if a pursuit is involved or if the injured party’s conduct contributed to the accident or injuries that occurred.
Injuries suffered during arrest or a negligent investigation
It may also be possible that an injured party who is injured while the police are trying to arrest him or her may have a legal claim.
In Ontario, the courts have also now allowed claims for negligent investigation if law enforcement fails to act reasonably in conducting an investigation. If this results in an injury and falls beyond the normal bounds of basic discretion, this could lead to civil liability for the law enforcement officer.
Bystander Injuries involving the police
Often innocent third parties suffer personal injuries due to law enforcement conduct simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If law enforcement was negligent in causing the injury to the bystander, that may form a basis for action. This may be the case if a bystander is hit as a pedestrian or other similar circumstance and would be slightly different than a claim involving a car accident.
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Steps to take following an injury involving the police
The first step to take if you are the victim of an injury suffered at the hands of law enforcement is to gather as much information about the law enforcement officer involved and the facts of the incident that occurred.
You may need to make a report to the law enforcement agency involved who may also then direct you to further action.
Depending on the nature of the incident or accident that caused the injury, the law enforcement officer may face disciplinary action as a result. If this does occur, this could serve as evidence to prove claims of negligence.
If damage occurred to your vehicle or property at the hands of law enforcement, you should also promptly notify your insurance carrier as soon as possible. The same is true concerning your health insurance provider.
If you have an opportunity to take pictures or right notes concerning the accident or injury, do so as soon as you are able because it is often helpful to have contemporaneous documentation.
Seek legal help
Injuries that result from the conduct of law enforcement are more complicated than typical personal injury claims. Understanding the applicable law and process is critical in successfully pursuing a claim If you have been injured at the hands of law enforcement. If you have been injured as a result of the actions of the police in Ontario, it is important to consult with an attorney who is well versed in personal injury law in Ontario. Claims involving injuries caused by the police can be complex and therefore it is important to have solid representation to guide you through the process and to ensure that your rights are adequately protected.