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Responsibility questioned in Illinois police chase fatality

A recent traffic fatality in Rockford has Illinois drivers wondering whether police pursuits are more dangerous than prudent. A 54-year-old woman lost her life when a suspect fleeing from police slammed is Dodge pickup truck into her car. Several others also were injured as a Belvidere man led police at high speeds through city streets.

The fatal car accident was the result of a chase that started with a traffic stop. The pickup driver was pulled over for suspected drunk driving. As Winnebago County sheriff's deputies returned to a patrol car to process the truck driver's information, the pickup driver took the opportunity to flee.

The Dodge struck another truck in the getaway attempt and kept moving. Police records say the pickup then ran a red light and plowed into the victim's car, sending both vehicles into an SUV. Four people including the suspect were hospitalized. The woman driver later died of multiple accident injuries.

The Belvidere man was jailed without bond on a series of charges including several traffic violations, aggravated fleeing and, the most serious, aggravated DUI homicide. County prosecutors said more charges could be added.

The sheriff's department immediately issued statements that said the police pursuit was justified. Authorities said they determined the risks involved in the nighttime police chase were necessary to stop a reckless, possibly intoxicated driver. Imagine the same scenario through the busy streets of Chicago!

Government agencies may be held accountable although, in many cases, police are immune from liability while performing public safety duties. That does not mean all Illinois negligence lawsuits against police officers and their employers are dismissed.

Immunity laws make it more difficult, but not impossible, to pursue liability lawsuits against government agencies than other defendants. Responsibility for injuries and wrongful deaths is determined on a case-by-case basis. A settlement or damage award can result when negligence or police misconduct is proven.

Source:, "Driver charged, woman identified in fatal Rockford accident" Jeff Kolkey and Chris Green, Aug. 23, 2013

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