Emergency vehicles rush to save the lives of others, but in doing so, some of them wind up getting into accidents. While rare, emergency vehicle accidents can and do happen. Between 2005 and 2013, there were 2,406 accidents involving police cars and 528 accidents involving ambulances and fire trucks.
What happens if you’re involved in an accident with an emergency vehicle? Who is responsible? What happens next?
Who is Liable?
The answer is complicated. Emergency vehicles are typically owned by the government, or they’re used on behalf of a government agency. That makes it hard to file a claim against the driver.
In many states, emergency vehicles are immune from lawsuits if the collision occurred while responding to an emergency. The extent of the immunity will depend on the circumstances of the collision and the driver’s behavior.
It’s important to remember that emergency vehicles are permitted to break the rules of the road when responding to an emergency, including speeding and running red lights. Still, the drivers of these vehicles must exercise caution when driving around other vehicles on the roadway. Drivers still have a duty to avoid reckless behavior that could harm pedestrians and drivers.
If the driver fails to use lights and sirens and speeds through an intersection without any regard for other drivers, it could be considered negligent behavior.
With that said, drivers also have a responsibility to obey the sirens of emergency vehicles. Drivers who fail to slow down and pull over may be held liable for the accident. By law, drivers must pull over as soon as it is safe to allow emergency vehicles to pass.
You May be on the Hook for All Costs
If the emergency vehicle was responding to an emergency, your insurance company will likely be on the hook for damages to your vehicle and the emergency vehicle. Your insurance company will also likely be responsible for medical bills associated with the accident.
Laws are generally written to protect emergency responders. If a driver is found to be even one percent at fault, he or she may have to foot the bill for the accident.
While the odds may not be in your favor, that doesn’t mean that you should give up or assume that you don’t have any rights.
If you’re involved in an accident with an emergency vehicle, you might consider hiring a lawyer – especially if you were injured in the accident.
Drivers Can Avoid Collisions by Following Emergency Vehicle Laws
While there are certainly cases of clear negligence in accidents with emergency vehicles, drivers can minimize the risk of a crash by following emergency vehicle laws.
- Slow down, observe surrounding traffic and turn on your blinkers or hazards before pulling over. If you pull over too quickly, you could wind up causing an accident with a pedestrian or another vehicle.
- Exercise extreme caution when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle. When approaching, move away from the vehicle, slow down, and pass with caution.
- If an emergency vehicle is approaching from an oncoming lane, drivers should stop their vehicles, turn on their hazard lights and pull to the right slowly.