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Shapiro & Appleton

Campaign After Woman Was Killed by Police Cruiser Leads to Change in VA Law

When Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed Ashey's Law, family members of the young woman for whom the legislation is named must have felt a world away from the icy February day in 2008 when Ashley McIntosh was killed by a speeding police cruiser at  intersection of Boswell Avenue and Route 1 in Fairfax County, VA. McIntosh, who was a 33-year-old teaching assistant, was soon to be married when the cruiser hit her vehicle. The officer behind the wheel had not turned on the cruiser's flashing lights or siren when going to respond to an emergency call.

Following the fatal accident, McIntosh's family launched a campaign to require all drivers of emergency response vehicle to operate lights and sirens when running a red light. That effort yielded Ashley's Law, which also requires all police cars, fire trucks and ambulances that do not have their flashers and sirens going must yield right-of-way at intersections.

McIntosh's mother also succeeded in winning a a wrongful death settlement from Fairfax County for $1.5 million, despite the local government's claim that it had sovereign immunity and could not be sued for the actions of its employees who were doing county business. An appeals court judge ruled that the police officer's gross negligence made the county potentially liable. Although every case is different, even police officers are not above the law when lives are wrecked.

See this video about Ashley's Law.




As experienced Virginia accident injury attorneys, we welcome this change in the rules for how emergency responder drive. Although accidents involving emergency vehicles are rare, they can be devastating when they do occur because emergency vehicles are often traveling at high speeds. Instances such as police chases that lead to accidents and injuries can raise a complex set of questions as to who is liable.

Although taking legal action against police officers or other city employees and agencies can be daunting, the Ashley's Law case demonstrates it is possible to see justice done in the wake of a tragedy and to bring about a change in the law.
We know this from experience. In 2008 our VA personal injury attorneys helped win a $1.5 million settlement for a husband and wife who were riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle when they were hit and seriously injured by a police officer operating a marked police cruiser.

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