Driver’s of emergency vehicles have an obligation to drive safely.
Drivers know that they are supposed to yield to all emergency vehicles that are operating with their lights and sirens. While we may think that they rule the road, the truth is they too are required to operate within safe guidelines. Just this past October an ambulance drove off of a freeway after swerving to avoid hitting an animal. High speed is believed to be a contributing factor in that accident even though the ambulance was not transporting a patient at that time. Don’t think that emergency personnel are exempt from being held held responsible for an accident.
While there are special laws giving leeway to ambulance drivers, the victim of an accident may claim compensation if the ambulance driver or its owner displayed negligence in their actions.
The sheer design of an ambulance makes them difficult to maneuver. They are built like an 18 passenger van and have a higher center of gravity then most passenger cars. It takes a driver with experience to operate these vehicles property. Inexperience drivers are the leading cause of ambulance accidents.
Contributing Causes of Ambulance Accidents
- Speeding: While ambulances are allowed to drive over the speed limit, they may do so only in emergency situations and only when lights and sirens are on. Even then, they do have a responsibility to drive safely so as not to put other drivers in danger.
- Driver fatigue: Long shifts may cause an ambulance driver to be tired behind the wheel and slow down their reaction time.
- Distracted Driving: Activities that distract a driver, such as talking on a cell phone may also lead to an accident.
- Failure to use their lights and sirens: The lights and sirens on an ambulance provide warning to other vehicles and reminds them to yield to an oncoming ambulance. An ambulance operating without them is assumed to be just another vehicle on the road and drivers may treat it as such. An ambulance driver cannot expect other drivers to respect their authority on the road if they are not utilizing their lights and sirens.
Missouri Emergency Vehicle Accidents
In Missouri, a speeding ambulance transporting a patient failed to turn on its lights and sirens, causing a passenger bus to stop suddenly in order to avoid a collision. The buses sudden stop caused one of its passengers to fall to the floor causing injury to both his head and spinal column. The victim filed a claim with the ambulance company, who chose to let the suit go to trial. After hearing from medical experts about the extent of the injuries as well as witness testimony regarding the failure of using lights and sirens the jury awarded the plaintiff $1.3 million. A key component in their decision was evidence supporting the fact that speeding does not get an ambulance to its destination any quicker than obeying the speed limit, and may actually cause more harm.
Do not let the supposed authority of an emergency vehicle deter you from seeking compensation. Drivers of these vehicles have an elevated duty of care to other motorists. If you were involved in an accident with an ambulance or other emergency vehicle bring the facts of your case to a car accident lawyer at The Hoffmann Law Firm, L.L.C. We can evaluate your case for free and help you determine the best way to move forward with your case.
Contact an attorney today by calling (314) 361-4242.
photo credit: Gamma-Ray Productions