Hearing a blaring siren and seeing flashing lights in your rearview mirror can be nerve-wracking. Whether it’s a police car, an ambulance, a fire truck, or a rescue vehicle, you’re supposed to ensure that you aren’t impeding the driver’s ability to get past your vehicle. That usually means slowing down, changing lanes, and pulling over to the side of the road if necessary.
However, some situations involving emergency vehicles can be chaotic and even dangerous. Intersections, gridlocked interstates, and narrow roads can put both emergency responders and the drivers they pass at risk of collisions. Although emergency responders are trained to drive as carefully as possible, they still need to respond as quickly as possible. That means crashes can and do happen.
If you get hit by an emergency vehicle, here’s what you need to know.
You Usually Can’t Sue if the Crash Occurred During an Emergency Call
The drivers of emergency vehicles are legally allowed to ignore traffic laws and signals while responding to emergency calls, provided they exercise reasonable caution. That means they can run red lights at intersections and ignore yield and stop signs. They can also ignore speed limit signs, pass where prohibited, and even drive on the wrong side of the road when necessary to bypass traffic.
In addition to being exempt from most traffic laws, the drivers of emergency vehicles also have sovereign immunity. That means they can’t be sued if they cause accidents in the course of duty that injure or even kill others. However, this immunity typically only applies when they are responding to emergency calls, and if they are driving with reasonable caution given the circumstances.
You May Be Able to Sue if the Driver Was Extremely Negligent or Wasn’t Responding to a Call
When the drivers of emergency vehicles negligently crash into other vehicles or hit pedestrians while they AREN’T responding to calls, they usually CAN be sued for damages. Injured victims also may be able to sue even if they were struck while the emergency responders were on their way to calls if they can prove that the drivers acted in a dangerous or extremely negligent manner.
This could include running a red light without slowing down or checking to see if cross-traffic is in the way, needlessly driving on the wrong side of the road, crowding and forcing other vehicles off the road, and intentionally ramming into other vehicles.
How Common Are Crashes Involving Emergency Vehicles?
Responding quickly to emergency calls means taking risks. Unfortunately, those risks sometimes result in serious crashes. The National Safety Council says that 170 people died in crashes involving emergency vehicles in 2019, with 84% of those deaths involving pedestrians and occupants of non-emergency vehicles.
Looking over a broader range of time, the National Fire Protection Association says that there were nearly 850 crashes involving ambulances between 2001 and 2010 in Oklahoma. These crashes resulted in 351 injuries, seven fatalities, and 485 property damage claims.
We Have the Experience and Knowledge of the Law to Win These Claims
The drivers of emergency vehicles are legally well-protected when they cause accidents that injure or even kill others while they are responding to calls. However, that doesn’t mean they are 100% free from liability. When victims were also driving safely when they were struck by emergency vehicles, they may still be eligible for compensation.
At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, we know that sovereign immunity isn’t an end-all, be-all situation for crashes involving police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, and rescue vehicles. There are exceptions to this rule, including off-duty crashes and crashes caused by extreme negligence. If you or someone you love was injured in a crash involving an emergency vehicle, we want to help.
Contact our Oklahoma City car accident lawyers today for a free consultation.