Q: My brother was hit by a car running from cops. Can the officers be held liable for injuries caused by this incident

The officers didn't radio it in or try to stop the hit and run

1 Lawyer Answer
Zachary Taylor Beck
Zachary Taylor Beck
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Rome, GA
  • Licensed in Georgia

A: This question brings up Qualified Immunity, which is a defense under which cops are immune from civil suits for violating constitutional (i.e. arguably your brother's 4th amendment unreasonable seizure right and possibly an excessive force claim) and statutory rights in the course of performing their duties unless they have violated "clearly established law." Clearly established law means an appellate or Supreme Court case that has previously held an officer's conduct unlawful. Thus, the facts of your brother's case would have to exactly, and I mean exactly, match the facts of a previous case(s) where the appellate/Supreme court held an officer hitting someone with a car while the person runs away violated clearly established law. Thus, qualified immunity does not shield the officer from civil suit.

Based on the limited facts provided in the question, qualified immunity would likely apply to shield the officer(s) from civil suit.

Somewhat less likely to fail --- and by somewhat, not that much ---- you could sue under the Georgia Tort Claims Act ("GTCA"). Again, to recover is a high bar. Specifically excluded from liability are most intentional torts (i.e. if it is proven the officer went rogue; however the officer may still be personally liable in this context) and any “performance of or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty . . . whether or not the discretion involved is abused[.]” See Ga. Code Ann. § 50-21-24(2), (7).

The officer will likely argue it was necessary to hit your brother with the vehicle for some discretionary police function (i.e. public threat, officer safety, etc.). Thus, the cop will likely be shielded from civil suit under the GTCA as well. Moral of the story, Plaintiffs must sustain a heavy burden to recover damages against the state and/or its employees when the alleged tort occurs in the scope of the employee's employment, especially in Georgia.

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