Emergency Vehicle Crashes
Liability in Crashes Involving Police Vehicles, Fire Trucks and Ambulances
Some of the most serious motor vehicle accidents are caused by emergency vehicles such as ambulances, fire trucks, or police cruisers moving at high rates of speed when a collision occurs. From an ambulance running through red lights to get a patient quickly to a medical facility, to police cars engaged in hot pursuit, these types of risky driving behaviors can result in devastating wrecks. Emergency medical personnel face the highest risk of accidents with over 6,500 ambulance accidents occurring each year. In over one-third of those collisions, at least one fatality has been reported.
Following the Rules of the Road
All authorized emergency vehicles must follow state laws related to the use of warning signs, including audible and visible signals. These state regulations apply to the use of certain lights by police, fire trucks, volunteer firefighters, ambulances, tow trucks, construction vehicles, utility vehicles, and security vehicles. Under Delaware law, emergency vehicles must display lights of specific colors when passing or proceeding at high rates of speed. Failure to follow these state laws could result in civil liability when an accident occurs.
Dangers of Police Pursuits
Police departments need to carefully balance the importance of apprehending their suspect with the likelihood a high speed chase will lead to serious injuries to the fleeing suspect or innocent bystanders, including drivers and passengers in other motor vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. Over 300 deaths result from car accidents caused by police pursuits each year.
While most police chases last only minutes and cover less than a mile, the involved vehicles can be traveling at speeds as high as 100 to 120 miles per hour, sometimes through residential neighborhoods. The severity of car collisions with emergency vehicles often causes significant physical injuries. These injuries include broken bones, spinal cord injuries, concussions and other traumatic brain injuries, internal bleeding, and damage to internal organs. Individuals injured in these types of accidents may require extensive medical treatment and experience permanent disabilities that leave them unable to work.
Proper Accident Investigation
When an accident involving an emergency vehicle occurs, it is important the appropriate investigation takes place to ensure all responsible parties are held liable for any resulting injuries.
Some of the critical factors in emergency vehicle crashes include:
- Whether the vehicle had its sirens and lights engaged
- The nature of the “emergency” to which the vehicle was responding
- Whether the driver had been properly trained
- Road conditions
- Road traffic levels
- Timing of the accident
- Other public safety concerns
Proper accident investigation, including the collection of evidence and the identification of potential witnesses, is crucial in protecting the rights of injured individuals when a collision takes place.
Potentially Responsible Parties
Although emergency vehicles may not be legally mandated to follow standard traffic rules, when drivers negligently operate their vehicles, they may face legal responsibility for any wrecks they cause. Factors considered in determining emergency vehicle driver liability include excessive speeding, improper maneuvering in traffic lanes, misuse (including failure to use) sirens or lights, and improper turns.
Drivers of emergency vehicles involved in these collisions are just one of the potentially liable parties when an accident occurs. Some emergency responders are employed by private ambulance companies. Employers may be found liable for negligence when drivers are improperly trained. Out of date or inadequate vehicle pursuit policies can also expose state and local police departments to liability when officers are clearly following these misguided directions.
Compensation for Injured Accident Victims
Obtaining compensation for injuries resulting from a collision with an emergency vehicle can be a complicated process. Often the driver of the emergency vehicle is employed by a municipal or other government entity. This may trigger specific legal requirements in bringing a lawsuit to obtain damages. Police and fire departments may have some degree of immunity that can make a claim more difficult without the assistance of quality legal counsel. Injured individuals should contact a lawyer familiar with specific state laws for help navigating the legal process.
Delaware Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Assist Victims of Emergency Vehicle Crashes
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, compensation may be available to cover the costs of medical treatment, prescription drugs, rehabilitation, lost wages, and pain and suffering. At McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, our experienced Delaware car accident lawyers are committed to helping individuals injured in motor vehicle accidents obtain the maximum amount of compensation for their injuries.
We proudly serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Delaware County and Chester County in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Wilmington, Dover, Newark, and Middletown, Delaware. Call us today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Delaware car accident lawyer at 302-888-1221 or 215-569-8488 or submit an online inquiry form.