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When someone is involved in an auto accident caused by another driver, they are typically able to file a personal injury lawsuit and recover damages for their injuries. However, what happens if they are in accident with an emergency vehicle?
Emergency vehicle car accidents, although rare, do occur. There are approximately 30,000 firetruck crashes each year, according to the United States Fire Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Injury claims for emergency vehicle car accidents can be complicated due to government liability; however, a personal injury plaintiff may be able to recover damages from an emergency vehicle car accident under certain circumstances.
While laws vary by state, those who provide emergency medical services generally have governmental, or sovereign, immunity. This means that firefighters, police officers, and ambulance drivers are generally exempt from liability and may not be held liable in civil actions. In Delaware, responsible public safety personnel who render emergency care or rescue assistance are not liable for any civil damages if they have the required training or certification, and if they did not cause the injuries or death willfully, wantonly, or recklessly by gross negligence.
Drivers of emergency vehicles are permitted to speed, run red lights, and break other traffic laws that the general population must follow. However, they are still required to exercise due care, such as using lights and sirens to alert other drivers to their presence. If an emergency vehicle driver is found to have willfully, wantonly, or recklessly caused an accident, they may be held liable in a personal injury lawsuit.
Those who are injured in emergency vehicle car accidents will typically face more obstacles when it comes to obtaining compensation than those who are injured in regular car accidents involving at-fault drivers. In Delaware, an injured party may file a claim against a government agency or its employee only if the claim refers to a lawful action performed in the scope of the government employee’s duties. If the injury resulted from an unlawful action, the claimant may only sue the individual who caused the accident personally, not the government agency that the person works for. If successful, claimants may be able to recover damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Drivers can avoid getting in a car accident with an emergency vehicle by taking certain precautions. When an emergency vehicle is approaching, slow down and observe the surrounding traffic before pulling over to the side of the road. Also, exercise caution even when the emergency vehicle is not moving; Delaware law requires drivers to reduce speed and move to a lane not adjacent to the vehicle when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle.
If you were injured in an emergency vehicle car accident due to the driver’s negligence, you may be eligible to collect compensation. There are special legal rules pertaining injury claims against the government, such as shorter statute of limitations and notice requirements. Our experienced Bear car accident lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow will evaluate your case and help determine if you are eligible for compensation. Contact us online or call us at 302-834-8484 to schedule a free consultation. With offices located in Wilmington, Bear, and Milford, Delaware, we also represent clients in Elsmere and Seaford.