Liability During Emergency Vehicle Collisions
If you were involved in a collision with an emergency vehicle, and you were not at fault, you can sue the liable party for damages, just as you could sue a private citizen. However, you will likely be going up against a government agency, and winning a personal injury claim against the government poses its own set of challenges. You need to speak to an experienced Florida personal injury attorney if you were injured in such a collision.
Police Chases Often End in Collateral Damage
Between 1996 and 2015, there were 6,000 fatal police chase collisions, equally roughly one fatal police chase crash per day. Two thirds of the fatalities were occupants in the vehicle fleeing the police, while one third of fatalities were those of other road users (other drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists not involved in the chase), according to the Bureau of Justice statistics. Thousands of other collisions are caused by ambulance and fire truck drivers, as well as police vehicles responding to non-traffic incidents.
Examples of When an Emergency Vehicle Could Potentially be Found At Fault
- Emergency vehicle driver distraction during a non-emergency, such as changing lanes without checking the mirrors;
- Speeding through an intersection without proper warning of lights and sirens, or without enough time for traffic to slow and stop;
- Law enforcement vehicle recklessly pursuing a fleeing vehicle;
- Emergency vehicle driver loses control and collides with a stopped or slowed vehicle;
- Emergency vehicle, such as fire engine, takes too wide of a turn, clipping a vehicle or pedestrian;
- Drowsy or fatigued driving of a police or ambulance results in a collision; and
Florida Right of Way Statute for Emergency Vehicles
Under Florida statute 316.126, when an emergency vehicle is signaling with an “audible siren, exhaust whistle, or other adequate device, or visible signals by the use of displayed blue or red light,” all other vehicles must immediately yield the right-of-way to the emergency vehicle and stop parallel with the curb of the roadway, “clear of any intersection and shall stop and remain in position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.”
As such, it is difficult to win a personal injury claim against a state or local government if you failed to yield right of way to an emergency vehicle. It could potentially be argued that you did not see or hear the emergency vehicle approaching, the emergency vehicle was traveling at too high of a speed through an intersection for you to react in time, or that the driver of that vehicle was acting negligently in some other manner.
What if Another Driver Caused the Crash?
A more successful lawsuit scenario, rather than suing the government because of police or ambulance driver’s negligence, is if another driver hit you or somehow caused the crash when an emergency vehicle came through. For example, you pulled over to the side of the road when you saw an ambulance’s flashing lights in your rear view mirror, and the driver behind you was tailgating you and rear-ended you as you slowed. Another example is if a driver got T-boned by a fire truck while attempting to speed through an intersection before the fire engine got there, and that passenger vehicle made a secondary impact with your own. Or, if police were pursuing a drunk driver, and that driver crashed into you, you would file a personal injury claim against that drunk driver. In some cases, multiple parties may be liable. For example, in the case of the fire engine T-boning the passenger vehicle, it could potentially be argued that the driver of the fire engine and the passenger vehicle driver were both partially at fault, in which case you could potentially file a personal injury claim against both parties.
A Naples Personal Injury Attorney is Here to Help You Win Your Claim
Emergency vehicle operators and first responders have an obligation to operate their vehicles in safe, prudent manners, just like other road users. However, because of right of way laws, it is difficult to win a claim against an ambulance, police, or fire engine operator/government agency. You must be prepared to show that you acted lawfully and that the other driver or drivers were negligent, whether they were using a siren and lights or not. If the collision was caused by another party, such as a commercial vehicle operator or the driver of a privately owned passenger vehicle, you can also file a personal injury lawsuit, and you stand a good chance of winning your claim. To discuss your options with an experienced Naples personal injury attorney, call The Law Offices of Marc L. Shapiro, P.A. today at 239-649-8050 to schedule your free consultation.