Injured in a Car Crash While Under Arrest, Now What?

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A car crash can happen to anyone, at any time. Another driver’s negligence can create an unavoidable situation for any driver, even a police officer. But what happens to the person in the back seat when that happens? If you are under arrest and are injured in a car accident, what can you do about it?

A Marine City resident is suing a drunken driver and the Marine City police because she was injured in a car crash while under arrest. Amy Distelrath was arrested for domestic violence on May 1, 2015. The police handcuffed her with her hands behind her back and put her in the back of a cop car. They didn’t buckle her in.

En route, the police car was struck by a drunk driver. The officer managed to avoid a head-on collision, but the patrol car was clipped, throwing Distelrath, with her hands still restrained, around the back set. She suffered face, neck, back, and dental injuries, as well as a traumatic brain injury. According to her attorney, Distelrath has been unable to return to work and has a lot of medical expenses.

There is little question that Distelrath will be entitled to no-fault benefits for her medical expenses and up to 3 years of lost wages, since her injuries were the result of a car crash. But what about the police? Should they have to pay anything?

According to the Detroit Free Press, the complaint says:

“Amy Distelrath was solely in custody and under the complete control of the police officers, who had a duty to ensure by all reasonable means her safe passage to the St. Clair County Jail, which would include using the safety restraints, since her hands were handcuffed behind her back.”

This may be a tough case for Distelrath and her lawyer. Whenever a government actor – like the Marine City police officers – get involved it raises a defense called “governmental immunity.” That defense protects government employees from being sued for doing their jobs. In order to get around this defense, Distelrath will have to show that they did more than just make a mistake. She and her attorneys claim that by failing to fasten her seat belt for her, the officers were grossly negligent in their duty to protect and serve.

Distelrath’s injuries could lead to a lifetime of medical expenses and treatment. But whether the Marine City police have to pay for any of it will depend on whether a judge believes failing buckling a detainee’s seat belt is enough to defeat the officers’ governmental immunity protections.

Sometimes a person will be unlucky enough to be injured in a car accident while under arrest. When that happens, you need a lawyer who knows how governmental immunity and the Michigan No-Fault Act interact. The auto accident attorneys at Christensen Law have been representing auto accident victims for over 20 years, and have handled government immunity cases before. If you find yourself in that situation, contact Christensen Law for a free consultation.