If you were under the impression that in a car accident, a police car is treated the same as any other under New York law, then you are terribly mistaken.

In fact, New York's highest court has held that as long as a police officer is in the process of responding to a call - even a non-emergency call - the officer is deemed to be engaged in the "emergency operation" of a vechicle, as a result of which his actions will be judged by the far more lenient "reckless disregard for the safety of others" standard set forth in VTL §1104(e) as opposed to regular, garden-variety negligence. See, Criscione v. City of New York, 97 N.Y.2d 152, 736 N.Y.S.2d 656 (2001).

As the New York Court of Claims held, emergency vehicles operating as police vehicles, even without activating their siren or red lights, continue to fall within the statutory exemptions. Soto & Maldonado v. State of New York, 21 Misc.3d 1107A, 873 N.Y.S.2d 237 (Ct. Cl., Claim No. 111499, 2008). In fact, in Soto, the Court went so far as to hold that the officer's acts of engaging his siren and lights demonstrated "that he did not act with 'conscious indifference to the outcome' of what he attempted."

For more on this topic, please read our blog article, "Police Must Still Drive Responsibly, Even When Responding to Emergency, NY High Court Holds".

Jonathan Cooper
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Non-Compete, Trade Secret and School Negligence Lawyer