It is common knowledge that when the sirens and flashing lights of an emergency vehicle are on, any other drivers on the road need to get out of the way. Emergency vehicles carry necessary personnel, whether it’s police, firefighters, or medical personnel, to the situations and individuals who need their help. While accidents with these vehicles are extremely uncommon, they do happen. What happens when you get into an accident involving an emergency vehicle? Who is held responsible? Can you seek compensation for damages or injuries? The dedicated car accident attorneys at the Hernandez Law Group have the answers for what you can expect if you were to get in an accident with an emergency vehicle.
Emergency Vehicles Exemption From Traditional Traffic Laws
In almost every state and jurisdiction in the United States, emergency vehicles are exempted from traditional traffic laws and codes when they are responding to an emergency. This is why you can often see emergency vehicles running red lights, ignoring stop signs, and driving up the wrong side of the road. However, there is an addendum. They may only drive this way when it is safe. This means that an emergency vehicle cannot just plow through a busy intersection at full speed. Instead, through ample warning from sirens, flashing lights, and the honking of the horn, the driver of the emergency vehicle needs to make their presence known and take extra caution not to hit other drivers while heading to the destination. This helps protect the other drivers on the road and prevents further injury from an avoidable accident.
If the operator of an emergency vehicle makes an unjustifiable maneuver to break traffic laws and hits another vehicle, they can be held liable for their actions. They can also be charged with a traffic offense, just as any other driver would.
How Do I Respond to the Accident?
If an accident were to happen with an emergency vehicle, the process would initially be the same as with any other accident. You would take the following steps to ensure the safety of yourself, your passengers, and those in the other vehicle:
- Ensure that no one is hurt. If there is an injured person/persons, then you need to contact emergency authorities right away.
- Move vehicles, if possible, to the side of the road.
- Contact the police to get a formal written statement of the accident.
- Exchange information with the other driver. This includes name, address, insurance information, phone number, and who they work for.
- Get witness statements and information if possible.
- Take pictures of the accident.
- Seek medical attention to get checked out and treatment for any injuries. Document any injuries caused by the accident.
Who Is Liable?
While how you treat the aftermath of an accident with an emergency vehicle is initially the same as with any other accident, getting compensation can be a bit different. This is because an emergency vehicle’s driver may be protected by vicarious liability or protection from the government. Here is more information:
Vicarious Liability of the Employer
Since the driver of the emergency vehicle was performing his duty, the liability may fall on the employer. Vicarious liability means that while on the job, an employer may be held liable for the negligence of their employee. In Texas, this concept is extended to agents of the municipal, state, and federal government whose negligent or careless actions resulted in the injury of another person.
To prove vicarious liability, it must be shown that the employee was working “on the clock” at the time of the accident. The employee’s actions must have been contrary to their safety training and policies. If a cautious employee who was faced with the same circumstances would not have made the same decisions as the employee in question, then the employee in question was negligent.
Sovereign Immunity of Government Employees
If the employer is protected by sovereign immunity, bringing a lawsuit against a negligent driver of an emergency vehicle may be extremely difficult. Sovereign immunity is the legal principle that protects state and federal government agencies from civil lawsuits against the government unless the government allows itself to be sued. It is not common that the government willingly allows itself to be sued.
Suing a Government Agency
While the government may have special rights under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, it does not mean that suing the government is impossible. With a dedicated team of car accident attorneys and approaching the lawsuit the right way, you can seek compensation for damages and injuries caused by your accident.
To get compensation, you have to present your case to the governmental department. This is done by filing an administrative claim. This claim must be filed within 95 days of your accident and cannot be claimed after the 95th day.
Once the claim has been placed, the government agency’s lawyers will approach you to figure a fair settlement for your accident. Having our team behind you can ensure that you are getting the compensation you deserve to cover both short and long-term damages and medical expenses. If your claim is denied for whatever reason, you may be allowed to sue against the government. In these cases, having the experience of the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. is essential, as we can help you build a strong case and help you get the compensation you deserve.
Whether you’ve been involved in a work accident, premises liability, personal injury, or car accident, you want an experienced and knowledgeable team on your side. Juan Hernandez is one of the 2% of personal injury lawyers to be Texas Board Certified in personal law. Our team can help you get the compensation you deserve and ensure that you are not being bullied by insurance companies or the opposite party. Contact our team today to schedule a no-obligation consultation.