On Dec. 28, 2014, a police officer here in New Jersey was on his way to a call. At the same time, three boys ranging in age from nine to 12 were crossing the same street. The officer's patrol car ended up hitting and killing one of the boys. Recently, local prosecutors announced that he would not face criminal charges in connection with the accident.
The investigation indicated that the officer was traveling at approximately 74 mph in a 50 mph zone. This in and of itself is not necessarily determinative since law enforcement officials are allowed to drive over the speed limit in response to calls, but must still exercise caution and safeguard the lives of those around them. It was about 7 p.m. when the accident occurred, and the patrol car's headlights were on, but the emergency lights and siren were not activated.
The 12-year-old boy made it across the street and attempted to let the 10-year-old boy know that a car was heading his direction. Unfortunately, the boy did not make it to the other side of the road because -- at least in part -- the Franklin Township officer was going too fast to stop in time. The 9-year-old boy never left his side of the street. It was noted that the boys were not crossing the street near a crosswalk or other traffic control signal.
Even though the officer's behavior may not rise to being criminal, that does not mean that the New Jersey boy's family is precluded from exercising their right to file a wrongful death claim against the officer and the appropriate parties in Franklin Township in connection with the accident. If the court determines that the officer was somehow negligent, an award of damages may be granted. The court may also find that the boy was partially responsible for his own death. In that case, so long as the officer is determined to be 50 percent or more liable, the family may receive a damages award that will be reduced by the percentage of liability assigned to the boy's actions. If the officer were found to be 60 percent or more liable for the boy's death, the family would receive all of any awarded damages.
Source: CBS Philly, "Prosecutor: No Criminal Charges For Officer Who Struck, Killed 10-Year-Old In Gloucester County", Jan. 9, 2015