As part of the emergency services group, police officers are responsible for protecting the communities in which they serve, as well as upholding a duty of care. Unfortunately, breaches of care can occur and cases involving police officers' negligent behaviours are sometimes evident in court.
Police officer versus driver
On 8 May, 2014, the plaintiff was driving her car south along Gibson Street in Goulburn around 6:30 p.m. Whilst driving she saw a dog in the middle of the road. She lowered her speed from 50 km/ph to 40 km/ph and swerved to her left to avoid hitting the animal. In doing so she struck a police officer who was stood in the road – a short distance from the curb. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff claims she suffered injuries to her back and left shoulder, as well as psychological injuries.
The State of NSW denies that the police officer was negligent in his actions, and instead pleaded contributory negligence.
Matters relating to the plaintiff
In cross-examination, the plaintiff said that while she was driving along Gibson Street she did not see the police vehicle parked on the side of the road. She alleged this was a result of unlit street lamps in the area. She also said she was concentrating on avoiding the dog.
The court called upon several witnesses. One of these was another driver who confirmed she did not see the police car or officer. The second was a man who the police officer was arresting. He claims the plaintiff was not speeding nor driving in a reckless manner.
Reviewing the evidence
During the hearing, the court referred to the matter of the arrest. It became clear that the officer and his partner arrested an intoxicated man and had made their way to the police car. The arresting officer states this was an urgent task as he didn't want the situation to escalate. However, at the time of the collision, the police officer had let go of the detainee as the man had been compliant with all instructions. The court stated had the officer been worried about the man's behaviour, he would not have unhanded him.
The court saw no reason why the police officer didn't remain on the curb a little while longer, allowing the car to pass. The risk of the accident was clear however he decided it was one worth taking and a reasonable person in the same position would have taken precautions against such risk.
However, because of the minor significance of the plaintiff's injuries and pre-existing psychological injuries, she was awarded just $316.85 in damages.
Motor vehicle accident claims can be tricky to decipher alone. Increase your chance of success by enlisting the help of expert lawyers. Get in touch with the team at Gerard Malouf & Partners today to see how we can help.