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What Happens After a Car Accident with an Emergency Vehicle?

Published: May 5, 2022 in Auto Accident, Personal Injury
Edwardsville Car Wreck Lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC Help Lessen the Stress and Confusion for Drivers Hurt in Crashes with Emergency Vehicles.

Most drivers have had the experience of watching an emergency vehicle rush by. Ambulances, police cars, and fire trucks have the authority to bypass normal rules of the road in order to help people. Typically, their speeding, running red lights, and ignoring stop signs only inconvenience traffic momentarily. Yet it is possible for drivers of emergency vehicles to collide with other drivers’ vehicles.

How Often Do Car Accidents with Emergency Vehicles Occur?

National Safety Council figures show that 168 fatal crashes occurred between emergency vehicles and other vehicles in 2018. In 2019, the number rose slightly to 170 fatalities. It is worth noting that these statistics do not cover all emergency vehicle accidents, only the ones that end in one or more deaths.

This means that it is possible for anyone to be involved in and injured because of a collision with an emergency vehicle and recovering compensation from such a collision can be a challenge. Drivers who have been hurt frequently retain the services of experienced car accident lawyers to assist them in suing the driver of an emergency vehicle to prove fault. That way, the injured drivers have the power of legal representation on their side when navigating the difficulties and intricacies of pursuing emergency vehicle-related personal injury cases.

Understanding Immunities Given to Emergency Responders

What is the problem with recovering compensation after your vehicle was hit by an ambulance or fire truck? The drivers are usually working on behalf of government agencies. This means they are protected by the doctrine of Sovereign Immunity. You might not be familiar with this doctrine. It says that citizens who have been hurt due to negligence by a government agent are unable to sue the government.

Does this mean you have no recourse? Not necessarily. Many lawyers have won personal injury cases for their clients, including in Illinois. In Illinois, government agents are protected against lawsuits, but can still be sued under certain circumstances. Notably, emergency vehicle drivers may be protected by the EMS Act, but the EMS Act does not give emergency vehicle operators the right to disregard all safety. For example, an ambulance driver who was under the influence or texting is acting negligently. If this negligence leads to an accident that causes another person’s injury, the ambulance driver may be deemed liable by a court. Again, every situation is unique and there are no guarantees, but drivers have worked with lawyers to reach acceptable settlement offers after emergency vehicle incidents.

What Rights Do Ordinary Drivers Have When Approached by Emergency Vehicles?

It should come as good news to know that you are not without your rights when it comes to emergency vehicles. In general, operators of emergency vehicles are supposed to:

  • Disregard the rules of the road as safely as possible, understanding that it may be difficult for some vehicles to move out of the way quickly.
  • Obey the rules of the road when not in an emergency circumstance.
  • Use wise judgment when it comes to making driving choices.

In other words, emergency vehicle drivers have a responsibility. Yes, they need to get to and from accident and emergency scenes rapidly. At the same time, they must do what is best for all parties involved.

What Should Drivers Do After Being Hit by an Emergency Vehicle?

You are driving down the street and you hear the telltale signs of a fire truck. Though you move to the side of the road, the truck sideswipes your car in passing. You should treat this experience just as you would under if you had been in a crash with any other type of vehicle.

First, pull off to a safe place if you can. Next, assess if you have any injuries. If you do, make sure not to move around too much. Call 911 or have someone else call and let the 911 dispatcher know about any potential medical needs you or others have.

While waiting for police and ambulance to arrive, try to document the scene with pictures or video. The fire truck may not have realized that it sideswiped your vehicle or may not have stopped regardless. Do not allow that to stop you from collecting evidence. Be sure to get as many images from different angles as you can. Your pictures could be valuable in case anyone questions your story. You may also want to ask eyewitnesses for their names and numbers.

When the police arrive, tell them what happened as plainly and honestly as you can. If medical personnel arrive, allow them to do their jobs and examine you. If they do not, make sure to be seen by a doctor within a day or so. That way, you can take care of any injuries. Getting injuries diagnosed and treated right away will help you create a stronger case against the driver of the fire truck.

Remember to call your insurance company. You may be able to recover some compensation through your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. PIP is not mandatory in Illinois, so you might not have the necessary PIP to help offset lost wages or the cost of out-of-pocket medical bills.

At what point should you get in touch with a car accident lawyer? The sooner the better, if that is the route you decide to take. To make a case against the driver of an emergency vehicle, you may have to file a raft of confusing paperwork. You may also have to deal with a variety of time limitations. The last thing you want is to miss an important deadline because you were unaware of tight deadlines. Consequently, contacting an attorney in the state where your emergency vehicle accident quickly took place makes sense.

Is There a Way to Avoid Crashes with Emergency Vehicles?

Accidents can and do happen every day, sometimes with emergency vehicles. The best way to avoid one is to make sure that you slow down, move out of the way, and pay attention when you hear an emergency vehicle near you. Putting on your four-way blinkers can be a good way to protect yourself, too.

Edwardsville Car Wreck Lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC Help Lessen the Stress and Confusion for Drivers Hurt in Crashes with Emergency Vehicles

Did a crash with an emergency vehicle cause you or a loved one serious injury? Give our Edwardsville car wreck lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC a call. Call us today at (618) 277-3644 or fill out our contact form. From our offices in Swansea, Illinois we serve residents of Randolph County, Carbondale, Chester, Monroe County, Waterloo, St. Clair County, St. Louis, Madison County, Granite City, East St. Louis, Belleville, and Edwardsville,