Emergency Vehicle Accident: Who is Liable?

emergency vehiclesWhen a car accident occurs, police cars, fire trucks, and ambulance vehicles may be called to the scene to help in a time of crisis. As drivers, we have a duty to yield to oncoming emergency vehicles to allow them to maneuver through traffic. But, what about when one of those vehicles is involved in an accident? Who is responsible if you are involved in an accident with the police or first responder?

Emergency vehicles often travel at high speeds and quickly move between lanes and other cars to reach their destination. This puts them and other drivers on the road at a higher risk of being involved in an accident. More than 6,000 accidents each year involve ambulance vehicles and nearly 30,000 crashes which involve fire trucks. Additionally, there are as many as 300 fatalities per year as a result of police pursuits.

These vehicles are permitted to violate traffic rules under certain circumstances to respond to an emergency, but they must also act as a prudent driver and be cautious of other drivers and pedestrians on the road. Louisiana Revised Statute 32:34 states what duties emergency vehicles have and when they apply:

A. The driver or rider of an authorized emergency vehicle, when responding to an emergency call, or when in the pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law, or when responding to, but not upon returning from, a fire alarm, may exercise the privileges set forth in this Section, but subject to the conditions herein stated.

B. The driver or rider of an authorized emergency vehicle may do any of the following:

(1) Park or stand, irrespective of the provisions of this Chapter.
(2) Proceed past a red or stop signal or stop sign, but only after slowing down or stopping as may be necessary for safe operation.
(3) Exceed the maximum speed limits so long as he does not endanger life or property.
(4) Disregard regulations governing the direction of movement or turning in specified directions.
crash with ambulance

C. The exceptions herein granted to an authorized emergency vehicle shall apply only when such vehicle or bicycle is making use of audible or visual signals, including the use of a peace officer cycle rider’s whistle, sufficient to warn motorists of their approach, except that a police vehicle need not be equipped with or display a red light visible from in front of the vehicle.

D. The foregoing provisions shall not relieve the driver or rider of an authorized vehicle from the duty to drive or ride with due regard for the safety of all persons, nor shall such provisions protect the driver or rider from the consequences of his reckless disregard for the safety of others.

If it is found that an emergency vehicle violated the statute and acted negligently, then a victim may file a lawsuit for damages against that driver. However, most of these vehicles are owned by government agencies, which places limits of the recovery. According to Louisiana Revised Statute 13:5106, the total liability of state and political subdivisions for damages for personal injury are capped at $500,000.

It is crucial to contact an experienced attorney in the event that you or a loved one are involved in an accident with an emergency vehicle to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation! PHONE CARDONE at 504-522-3333, 225-706-3920 (Baton Rouge office), 1-888-892-2736 (toll free) or email us at ccardone@cardonelaw.com.

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