December 1, 2014
Sussex County, Va.
33-year-old Mario Pegram of Richmond wrecked his vehicle while attempting to flee state troopers by driving more than 100 mph the wrong way on Interstate 95 on Sunday morning.
The pursuit began at approximately 7:30 AM, when a Virginia State trooper attempted to pull over Pegram for driving in excess of 100 mph on I-95 in Sussex County.
Pegram ignored the trooper and attempted to allude police by driving erratically on I-95 to avoid being stopped. At one point in the pursuit, Pegram crossed over the dividing median and began driving northbound in the southbound lanes with speeds at over 100 mph.
Troopers continued to follow Pegram, remaining in the northbound lanes while providing radio traffic to other units in the southbound lanes. Pegram managed to dodge several head-on collisions with southbound vehicles before losing control of his vehicle, which overturned several times before finally coming to a halt.
Pegram suffered minor injuries and was treated at Southside Regional Medical Center. Since his release from the hospital, Pegram has been charged with felony eluding police, reckless driving by speed of 105 mph, and driving with a suspended license, third offense. He is currently in police custody.
In this case, Pegram’s accident did not involve any other vehicles. However, high-speed chases often result in serious injury to innocent bystanders.
Generally, drivers owe a duty of care to pedestrians, cyclists, and other motorists. When drivers in a high-speed chase fail to comply with police officers, they breach this duty of care and can be held liable for resulting injuries.
Liability becomes complicated, however, when a victim is injured by a police officer engaging in a high-speed pursuit. Pursuing police officers are almost always immune from liability.
However, the police can be held responsible in civil court for money damages under the Virginia State Code given the right set of facts.
For example, the Code allows drivers of emergency vehicles operating under emergency conditions to disregard speed limits, but requires that they maintain “due regard” for bystander safety. Similarly, emergency drivers may “disregard regulations governing a direction of movement of vehicles” permitting that driver does not “endanger life or property.”
While the Virginia State Code does not elaborate on the specific thresholds for the above examples, each department within the state maintains a unique internal policy regarding suspect pursuit. Innocent bystanders injured as a result of high-speed police chases should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure maximum compensation for their injuries.