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Maryland car theft suspect claims police caused fatal wreck

A man accused of stealing a car in Montgomery County, Maryland, is suing the police department that arrested him. The 18-year-old man says the fiery wreck that claimed the lives of three other people in the car was caused when a police cruiser rammed into the stolen vehicle, setting it ablaze. Although he may not evoke much sympathy as a crime suspect, his role in that case shouldn't come into play if in fact the police caused a fatal car accident.

The man was one of four people accused of stealing a car. An officer driving behind the vehicle March 23 noticed it was listed as stolen and proceeded to chase it. The high-speed chase ended near the border separating Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County. The car had slowed to 50 mph and skidded to a stop along a curb, the lawsuit says, when a police squad car rammed the car so it couldn't cross the borderline. The impact allegedly caused the stolen car to crash into a tree and burst into flames, killing the two teenage passengers. The 16-year-old driver died from his injuries five days later.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit says he suffered fractured ribs and emotional damage from hearing two of his friends scream as they burned to death. The lawsuit says the stolen car had stopped and the occupants were planning to get out, and that the vehicle would not have collided with the tree if police hadn't rammed into it. The lawsuit also says the police chase was improper because such chases should be limited to serious crimes. Montgomery police maintain that there is no evidence a cruiser rammed the car, and that the chase was proper.

Regardless of your thoughts on whether the plaintiff is guilty of the crime of which he's accused, it's important to keep in mind that it's the details of a car accident that matter when determining fault in a lawsuit. Police and other authority figures are just as capable as other drivers of making a mistake or exhibiting negligence, and their position shouldn't prevent anyone hurt by the actions of another from seeking compensation for their injuries or a loved one's death.

Source: The Washington Post, "Police chase survivor sues police, says that an officer rammed car," Dan Morse, April 27, 2012

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