Ambulance and Fire Truck Accidents & Related Lawsuits
Ambulances and fire trucks must respond as rapidly as possible to save lives and property. When they are responding to an emergency, they do not need to follow the traffic rules that apply to other vehicles, such as stopping at signals and stop signs or following the speed limit. As a result, these emergency vehicles may cause accidents around intersections or in areas with dense traffic. The high speeds at which they travel may cause catastrophic injuries to people in other vehicles, such as brain trauma, spinal cord injuries, loss of limbs, and internal organ damage.
A victim struck by an emergency vehicle might assume that they cannot get compensation because these vehicles are not subject to traffic rules. However, drivers of ambulances and fire trucks still must act reasonably under the circumstances. If they were careless or reckless in causing an accident, a victim might have a valid claim.
Suing the Government
Many ambulances and fire trucks are operated by government agencies. This means that an accident victim may need to comply with special rules that apply to claims against the government. For example, they may have a much shorter time window for bringing a claim than the standard personal injury statute of limitations.
Factors other than driver errors also may contribute to these accidents. The owner of the vehicle may not have kept it in a safe condition, or a maintenance company may not have properly conducted repairs. Sometimes the crew of the vehicle failed to follow safety rules that applied to their conduct. In other cases, a defective component in an ambulance or fire truck may support a claim against a manufacturer. The range of defendants and legal theories in these cases will depend on the specific facts.
Legal Rights After Accidents Involving Emergency Vehicles
A victim who was struck by a fire truck or ambulance can recover compensatory damages if they establish liability. These damages are intended to put the victim in a position similar to their position if the accident had not occurred. While this is not literally possible, they can recover compensation for costs such as medical bills, lost income, and property damage, in addition to non-economic harm like pain and suffering and emotional distress. Compensation for future costs and losses may be available in cases that involve ongoing conditions that require further treatment or permanently alter the victim’s life.
Sometimes a victim may have contributed to an accident involving an emergency vehicle. For example, perhaps they did not react as promptly as they should have when they saw an ambulance or fire truck with its sirens and lights activated. If the victim was partly responsible for causing the crash, the amount of damages that they can recover will depend on their state:
Pure comparative negligence states: damages will be reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault attributed to the victim
Modified comparative negligence states: damages will be reduced in proportion to the victim’s percentage of fault, but barred entirely if their fault reaches a certain percentage (usually 50 or 51 percent)
Contributory negligence states: damages are barred entirely if the victim was at fault to any degree
Accidents involving emergency vehicles may be more complex both procedurally and substantively than many truck accident cases. A victim thus should hire an attorney as soon as possible after an accident. Most truck accident lawyers handle their cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that they collect fees for their services only as a percentage of a settlement or judgment obtained for a victim. The percentage may vary depending on the trajectory of the case. The attorney-client representation agreement will outline how attorney fees will be calculated and how court costs will be covered. These may include costs such as filing fees, service fees, court reporter fees, document copying fees, and expert witness fees.