Deputy hits motorist but isn't liable by state law - - Jackson, MS

Deputy hits motorist but isn't liable under state law

RANKIN COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

If a law enforcement or emergency vehicle hits you when on the way to an emergency, you could be stuck paying for your losses. It's a lesson a Rankin county woman recently learned.

"It could have been a lot worse than what it turned out to be," said Donna Gilmer.

The Rankin county mother is talking about the accident last Wednesday where her daughter Taylor Hammond's car was T-boned by a Rankin county deputy.

It happened at the intersection of Holly Bush Road and Highway 25. The 20 year old's Nissan Altima was totaled, and she suffered minor injuries.

Hammond had the green light.

Rankin county authorities say witnesses confirm that the deputy had sirens and lights going when he slowed down at the red light but did hit Hammond.

Now her mother has learned that the sheriff's department's insurance may not pay because of a state law limiting liability.

"I feel like it's an unlawful issue," said Gilmer. "I feel like if you got a police officer out there they need to be liable for a vehicle if they crash into it. I was told a hundred percent that they were liable by another source in the service, and I feel like they should have to compensate me for my daughter's lost car," said Gilmer.

Sheriff Bailey takes responsibility and wants the county to pay but said his hands are tied. He said the department pays more than $377,000.00 a year to cover his fleet of more than 100 vehicles.

State law 11-46-9 exempts government entities from liability when responding to emergencies and there is no reckless disregard for the law.

"I want to do the right thing especially if it's one of my deputies is at fault, just as something as small as backing into a car or as something as serious as a serious accident at an intersection," said Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey. "if it's my fault, I want to pay for it but the state law won't allow me to pay for it." 

If Glimmer's claim is denied by the county's insurance company, the sheriff says she can file through her insurance company as an un-insured motorist, which he says should not count against her policy or cause her insurance to increase.

But that is little comfort to Gilmer who fears she will be stuck with medical costs and replacing her daughter's car.

Sheriff Bailey worked with state Senator Dean Kirby on legislative changes to the law to allow law enforcement agencies to at least pay for an accident victim's deductible. It takes effect July first.

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