Emergency Vehicle Accidents
From 1991 through 2000, which are the most recent years for which data is available concerning ambulance accidents, 300 fatal crashes involved occupied ambulances. Those accidents resulted in the deaths of 275 non-emergency personnel (pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles) and 82 ambulance occupants.
Over the past 40 years, progress has been made to improve highway safety. These improvements include safer roadsides, drivers who are more responsible, and safer vehicles. Even so, deaths related to highway accidents are one of the nation’s major public health issues.
While the fatality rate has decreased from 5.5 deaths every hundred million vehicle miles traveled to 1.52, an ongoing challenge remains for transportation professionals to do everything they can to improve safety on the nation’s highways (Ostensen, 2003).
2011 Statistics for National Car Accident Fatalities
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there was a decrease in the number of fatalities related to car accidents. It is estimated that in 2011 there was a decline of approximately 1.7 percent.
Indications suggest that many of the crashes involving emergency vehicles cause considerable damages, severe injuries and fatalities, which incite lawsuits and public outrage.
If an emergency vehicle’s driver is negligent, the entity at which he is employed may be held liable for the damages. Emergency Vehicles include ambulances, fire trucks and police cars. All of the damages caused by the negligent driver including lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical expenses may be the financial responsibility of his employer. The driver himself may not be held liable due to a law that grants him immunity from liability.
Liability Depends on the Circumstances
When the flashing red lights and siren are activated on an authorized emergency vehicle in response to an emergency, the driver’s conduct is measured according to the same standard of care that applies to a reasonable individual under identical emergency circumstances.
If the driver neglects to activate the lights and sirens on the vehicle, the driver’s conduct will be governed by the same standard of care that applies to a reasonable individual under comparable circumstances, excluding consideration of an emergency situation.
For example, if a fire engine’s sirens and lights are on and it is responding to an emergency call, typically the driver will not be held liable for any injuries that result from accidents with pedestrians or other vehicles. On the other hand, if the fire engine is not in the process of responding to an emergency call at the time of an accident, the driver
can be held liable for any injuries or deaths that resulted from his negligent operation.
The proper standard for determining if an emergency vehicle operator believed he was in the process of responding to an emergency call when the accident occurred is determined by the courts, Corsentino v. Cordova, 4 P.3d 1082 (Colo. 2000).
The standard used to determine whether an emergency vehicle driver endangered property or life while speeding is to determine whether the speed of the vehicle created an unreasonable risk of damage to property, life, or risk of injury. Courts are supposed to limit their inquiry to the conduct of the emergency operator before the accident and take into consideration the conditions surrounding his conduct, Corsentino v. Cordova, 4 P.3d 1082 (Colo. 2000).
Important factors used in determining conduct include:
- The road conditions
- Legal speed limit in the area
- Type of area (rural, urban)
- How fast the operator was driving
These are just a few of the factors that are taken into consideration.
According to James O. Page, who was the leading authority of the United States emergency medical services in 1985, although most people do not want to talk about ambulance vehicle
accidents, most of them are preventable.
You Only Have Six Months to File Your Claim
A public entity generally owns an emergency vehicle. If an emergency vehicle has caused you to suffer injuries, it is imperative that your claim is filed with the appropriate public agency as soon as possible. If you do not file your claim within six months of the date of your accident, you will forfeit your right to sue both the public entity and/or its employees.
Whether an ambulance has injured you, a fire truck, or a police car, you deserve to know your legal options. Because the law in relation to death and/or injuries arising from emergency vehicle collisions is complex, contacting an experienced personal injury attorney is critical. Call today so we can help you explore your options.
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Photo by Daniel P. Fleming