Fewer people injured in police car chases would be able to file for damages under a bill advancing in the Unicameral.
LB 188 tightens the definition of innocent third party in a police pursuit, making a change in the law passed in 1981.
Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha sponsored the original law and mounted an unsuccessful filibuster against LB 188. After lawmakers voted to end the filibuster, they advanced the bill on a 34-6 vote.
The bill would prohibit a person convicted of a crime or who did not try to convince the driver to end the pursuit from filing a civil lawsuit against a governmental body, such as the state, a city, or a county.
During legislative floor debate, Chambers asserted that while the sponsor intends to shield cities and counties as well as the state from big damage awards, he actually will encourage lawsuits.
“That’s what this kind of legislation encourages. It encourages litigation. But, it goes a step beyond that. It makes it absolutely essential,” Chambers stated. “The family of the injured third party or the injured third party has no choice other than to file the lawsuit.”
The sponsor, Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse, acknowledged that Sen. Chambers correctly acted on behalf of people injured in police pursuits when he authored the law enacted in 1981.
“Thirty years ago, 35 years ago, when he enacted these police pursuit statutes in law, they have done a lot of good between now and then,” according to Watermeier. “But, honestly folks, it’s an overreach now to say that a person that’s in the vehicle is automatically considered innocent.”
Watermeier has agreed to try to address some objections raised by Chambers during legislative floor debate before the bill returns for second-round debate.