Every year, lawyers who help clients involved in auto accidents receive calls from concerned drivers who have been involved in accidents with emergency vehicles and wonder if they are at fault.
Since the law states that other drivers must get out of the way of police, ambulance, and fire responders going to an emergency situation, being struck by one can often be a gray area in terms of who is actually responsible.
As with any other car crash, the situation is analyzed to determine who was at fault and whether negligence played a role.
Thousands of Emergency Vehicle Crashes Every Year
Emergency vehicles traveling at high speeds while responding to different emergencies are involved in many crashes every year.
Data collected through various sources indicate that there are an estimated 4,500 crashes involving ambulances1 and 30,000 crashes involving firetrucks2 each year, as well as hundreds of police car crashes that ultimately result in as many as 24 police officer fatalities each year.3
A high number of these crashes involve the emergency responder striking other vehicles as they respond to an emergency call.
Are You Automatically At Fault?
Under most circumstances - no, which doesn't give you a clear path to recover any resulting damages.
Although emergency responders do have special permission to disregard certain traffic laws to get quickly where they need to go, they are still required to adhere to traffic laws and drive in a non-negligent manner.
Safety is still paramount, even when responding to an emergency call.
If a lawyer who has handled many auto accident cases can prove that the driver of an emergency vehicle acted negligently and broke additional laws, you may be able to sue for damages; however, emergency vehicles fall under what is called government immunity.
Conversely, if your actions caused the accident and it resulted in you being hit by an emergency vehicle, then you might be at fault just as you would be in any other similar accident.
Emergency Vehicles and Government Immunity
In many states including Texas, emergency vehicles and other public servants have the authority to proceed outside of the normal traffic laws when acting in good faith while responding to emergency calls.
First responders cannot be held liable for damages that occur while performing their normal on-the-job duties and importantly, act in good faith.
This does not necessarily mean that you are at fault and the drivers of emergency vehicles are not at fault if they hit you; it simply means that you or your insurance company that has paid for your damages cannot sue the government for compensation.
Not At Fault - Still Financially Responsible
If you are hit by an emergency vehicle operating within the normal scope of the job, you may not be at fault but will likely still be financially responsible for your own damages.
That is why it's a good idea to discuss your accident with an experienced auto accident attorney who can determine if sovereign immunity applies to your accident because it was unavoidable due to the specific accident circumstances.
The best think you can do is stop, call for the nearest peace officer, get pertinent information if possible, notify your insurance company about the accident, and seek the services of an attorney experienced in handling cases that involve accidents with emergency vehicles!
Hildebrand & Wilson, Attorneys at Law
7930 Broadway, Suite 122
Pearland TX 77581
1National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Ambulance Crashes Report, April 2014
2Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine: Analysis of Firetruck Crashes and Associated Firefighter Injuries in the United States, October 2102
3U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts: Occupant Fatalities in Law Enforcement Vehicles Involved in Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes, January 2018