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Who Is at Fault If an Accident Occurs While in Police Custody?

When someone is at fault in an accident, it can be hard to prove why they are at fault or who exactly is at fault. It gets even more complicated if an accident occurs when people are in police custody. For the personal injury attorneys at The Paul Wilkinson Law Firm, this occurrence is not impossible-  as it was present in the case of The People of Colorado v. Steinke, where a police vehicle holding a person in custody was parked on train tracks and hit by a freight train. 

Exactly who is at fault depends on the situation and who was present when the accident occurred. This guide will cover who is at fault and how you might prove someone is at fault when an accident occurs. 

Causes of Accidents and Injuries While in Police Custody 

There are a few different reasons why someone might end up injured while they are in police custody. Here are some of the most common arrest-related injuries happen:

  • The person tries to elude or run away from law enforcement 
  • The person injures themselves or others while they are in custody because they are drunk or under the influence of drugs 
  • The person has a medical condition that is made worse because they are arrested or in jail 
  • Fighting between the inmates 
  • The law enforcement officials use too much force when putting the person under arrest 

The good news is that accidents during police custody are usually not common but there are times when you might need to worry about it. If your loved one or friend experienced an injury or accident while in custody, you might be wondering who is at fault and if there is a case for a lawsuit. 

Definition of “In Police Custody” 

First of all, it’s important to know the definition of police custody because you first need to determine if you were injured in actual custody or not. 

Here are some examples of being in police custody:

  • You are on the street or in public but you have already been taken into custody 
  • You are on the premises of the police station or inside the station 
  • You’re in the police car 

Accidents can happen because of your own actions or the actions of police officers if they are not acting lawfully. 

What Is Your Status At the Time of the Injury? 

If you have been detained or are under arrest, all police officers and law enforcement officials are expected to act with respect and honesty. They also need to be reasonable because they need to adhere to all the police rules and standards. 

Keep in mind that all police officers know the standards they are expected to act under and they have been specially trained to work under those standards. 

Things might be looked at differently if you are drunk or under the influence of drugs because it could say that you injured yourself. If you are trying to run away from police officers or being too aggressive, they might also have to force you to get you under control which can cause you to be injured after you have been arrested or detained. 

Rights When You Are Injured in Police Custody 

All people have specific rights when they are under arrest or in police custody regardless of why they were arrested or how they acted during the time of arrest. If your civil liberties are not taken seriously or you are injured because your civil rights are compromised, you could have a case for saying that a police officer or other law enforcement official caused you to become injured while in police custody. 

Here are some examples of your civil rights not being upheld while you are in police custody:

  • Excessive use of force. This can mean a lot of different things. Police officers should never be too forceful when they are detaining someone or putting someone into handcuffs. They only need to use the right amount of force that is necessary. However, they might have to use more force if someone is trying to injure them or if they need to subdue someone. 
  • False arrest. This happens when police officers take someone into custody without having a real reason or cause to arrest them. 
  • Unlawful detention. There always needs to be reason for detaining someone. If you have been questioned for an excessive amount of time or you are not informed about why you are being obtained and you get injured during this time, it could be the fault of the police officers because you should have already been released. 

Fights Between Inmates 

Police officers are supposed to break up fights between inmates and ensure that they have a way of seriously harming one another. However, in most cases, inmates getting into fights are not blamed on officers unless there is an extreme case. 

For example, if police officers did not search an inmate before putting them into the holding cell and they had a knife and then stabbed someone, the police officer could be blamed for this injury. 

If the fight was not broken up in a timely manner, this could also be brought back onto the shoulders of the police officers who were on duty when the fight happened. 

Next Steps 

If you are not sure whether you have a case when you received an injury in police custody, the best thing you can do is contact a personal injury attorney. You can explain to them what happened and then they can gather the needed evidence from the police station. 

If they think you have a case or probable lawsuit, they can then take all your paperwork to the court and you can begin your lawsuit. 

Being injured while in police custody can be traumatic and seeking compensation can help you recover and get the support you need to move on. 

The Bottom Line 

Whether you suffered an injury while being arrested, in the back of the police car, or at the police station, you might be wondering who is at fault and if you can seek compensation for your injuries. 

The best way to find out is to contact a personal injury attorney and have them review your case.