December 20, 2021

How Do I Handle a Car Accident with an Emergency Vehicle?

emergency vehicle

No matter where you live, there are emergency services available to help stop crime, put out fires, and transport people to the emergency room as needed. Those emergency services rely on vehicles that should have experienced and well-trained drivers at the wheel to help get where they are going. Sometimes, even the best drivers of emergency vehicles wind up in car accidents and might even have caused some of them.

Emergency vehicles have priority when it comes to right of way while their emergency lights are on and their sirens are sounding. Even if they have only the lights on or just sound the siren enough to get your attention, you must slow down and pull over to the right side of the road whenever possible. That enables emergency vehicles to get around you safely while continuing to their destination as quickly and safely as possible.

Sometimes, traffic and other conditions might make it impossible for you to safely get over to the right side of the road and stop. You might be crossing an intersection and get clipped by an emergency vehicle that came from another direction and did not have the siren sounding while the lights were flashing. Accidents with emergency vehicles could happen in many ways. When they do, the motorists in the private passenger vehicles do not always cause the mishaps.

Emergency Vehicles Usually Inflict Injuries in Accidents

An emergency vehicle could be a police car, ambulance, fire truck, or similar vehicle typically used by first responders. They usually have emergency lights and sirens and are among the very few vehicles that can use red or blue flashing lights. Police cars by far are involved in more collisions than any other emergency vehicle. The primary reason is obvious: Police cars are on the road for an entire shift, whereas other emergency vehicles generally stay parked until needed.

In 2019, it was reported that 170 people died of accidents with emergency vehicles. Nearly two-thirds of those deaths were people in non-emergency vehicles. Another 21 percent were pedestrians. Conversely, passengers of emergency vehicles only accounted for about 10 percent of deaths in traffic accidents. Of the 170 deaths in 2019, the emergency vehicles and fatalities caused were as follows:

  • Police vehicles with 114 deaths
  • Ambulances with 33 deaths
  • Fire trucks with 23 deaths

The frequency with which emergency vehicles go into traffic makes a big difference in the number of fatal accidents that occur. Most of the accidents with emergency vehicles involve at least one other vehicle, and about three-fourths of fatalities in 2019 were from multi-vehicle accidents.

Fire trucks and ambulances could be especially dangerous in an accident with a typical passenger car. They are taller than most privately owned vehicles and typically weigh more. Greater weight and a taller center of gravity combined with the effects of speed could turn even a relatively minor accident into a deadly event.

Police cars usually have added protection that helps to make them sturdier and better capable of withstanding damage in accidents. Better suspensions and body panels that are designed and built to absorb damage help to make police cars more stable while traveling at higher speeds. It also makes it easier for police officers to use their vehicles to spin or otherwise disable a suspect vehicle during a car chase.

Hold Harmless Laws Protect 911 Services

Police officers and firefighters work for local, state, or federal governments. Their vehicles also are owned by governmental entities. Hold harmless laws generally protect government employees against liability while lawfully engaged in their duties. As long as they drive in a reasonable manner and the vehicles are maintained properly, if could be very difficult to press claims against the driver or governmental entity that owns the emergency vehicle.

If you are in an accident with an emergency vehicle and the driver was operating in a normal manner for an emergency vehicle, your insurance would have to cover accident costs. That would include damages to your vehicle and any medical attention you might need. Even if you did virtually nothing wrong, hold harmless laws would shield drivers of police cars, fire trucks, or other governmentally owned emergency vehicles against any liability.

The law does not hold harmless those who drive in blatantly negligent or intentional manner. Also, if the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causes an accident, hold harmless laws would not apply. Therefore, it is possible to press claims against the drivers of emergency vehicles when they drive in an extremely negligent or downright illegal manner and cause injuries to others.

Privately Owned Ambulance are Commercial Vehicles

Virtually all ambulance and emergency medical technician (EMT) services are privately owned. That means they are not protected by hold harmless laws. They still have the right of way when using their emergency lights and sirens, but their drivers do not enjoy the same protections as police officers, firefighters, or other first responders who work for governmental units.

A privately owned ambulance is a commercial vehicle and must be insured like other vehicles. Therefore, if you are involved in an accident with an ambulance or similar privately owned emergency vehicle, you have a better chance of holding the driver and owners liable for any accidents that a negligent driver might cause.

If a mechanical problem created the conditions that caused an accident, the mechanical service that worked on the emergency vehicle might be liable for a third-party claim. Whenever involved in an accident with an emergency vehicle, it always is a good idea to talk with an experienced car accident lawyer to learn about your legal options.

Norristown Car Accident Lawyers at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C. Assist Drivers in Accidents with Emergency Vehicles

Emergency vehicles are involved in thousands of accidents every year, and some of them cause injuries or deaths. If you are in an accident with an emergency vehicle, reach out to the experienced Norristown car accident lawyers at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C. We will advocate for your rights and help secure the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us at 267-861-7100 or visit our website to set up a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients in Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Delaware County, and Norristown.