Mississippi Officer’s High Speed Driving, Without Seatbelt, Did Not Amount to Willful Intent To Injure Himself

Although crash data indicated not only that a Mississippi patrol officer increased his speed steadlily from 53 mph to more than 90 mph in the twelve seconds prior to an accident, but that the officer was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of the accident—he sustained serious injuries when he was ejected from his vehicle—there was no credible evidence that the officer willfully acted with the intent to injure himself, held a Mississippi appellate court in City of Jackson v. Brown, 2017 Miss. App. LEXIS 382 (June 27, 2017). Accordingly, Miss. Code Ann. § 71–3–7(4) (Supp. 2016) did not bar his recovery of workers’ compensation benefits.

Citing Linde Gas v. Edmonds, 167 So. 3d 1258 (Miss. Ct. App. 2014), in which an employee was not precluded from receiving compensation for injuries sustained in a work-related accident, despite the fact that he was not wearing his seatbelt and the employer’s evidence showed that he was speeding. The court also observed that the officer and several fellow officers—all in separate vehicles—were responding to a distress call from a fellow officer who had radioed, in the early hours one morning, that he needed help at a nightclub about a mile away. The injured officer contended he swerved to avoid an object in the street, when he lost control of the vehicle. None of the other officers, who were traveling one after each other and at the same speed, saw any such object.  They all maintained control of their vehicles. The court indicated that under these circumstances there was no clear and direct evidence proving that the officer willfully intended to injure himself.

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