“Let’s be careful out there.”We see emergency situations frequently: a fire truck speeding through an intersection, a police officer in pursuit of a suspect, an ambulance heading for the hospital. We pull over to let these vehicles zip by, but what many people do not realize is how often accidents involve emergency vehicles.
If you were a victim of an emergency-related traffic accident, you have firsthand knowledge of the resulting chaos. You encouraged to seek legal help, whether you are a firefighter or a cop, an EMT or paramedic, a motorist or bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time, or a patient being transported.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, motor vehicle crashes cause more firefighter fatalities than tactical operations do. The FEMA report also states that more law enforcement officers die in traffic accidents than by gunshot wounds. Motor vehicle accidents also routinely claim the lives of emergency medical personnel. The fact is that emergency responders — and all the rest of us — are at risk of injury or death just by traveling from Point A to Point B.
Accident by ambulance
A report released in 2014 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed the results of a 20-year study of ambulance accidents in the U.S. Of those who died in such crashes, 63 percent were occupants of passenger cars while 21 percent were ambulance occupants. The study, covering 1992 to 2011, revealed that ambulances were involved in 1,500 crashes that caused injuries to 2,600 people. While speeding was the chief cause of those accidents, vehicle occupants who were not wearing seatbelts suffered a disproportionate share of the injuries.
According to NHTSA figures, of the 513 traffic deaths recorded for the state of Maryland in 2015, speeding caused 121 accidents, and 85 fatalities were linked to lack of seat belt use. When it comes to emergency vehicles rushing to a destination, the consensus among agencies who track these statistics is that emergency services personnel and “civilian” drivers alike must place more emphasis on emergency vehicle safety.
As the police sergeant used to say on Hill Street Blues: “Let’s be careful out there.”
Serious injuries and tricky legal issues
If you end up injured as the result of an ambulance crash, you may be facing serious medical bills and possible loss of income, but you do not have to deal with this kind of stress alone. Find an attorney who is experienced with personal injury and wrongful death cases, especially crashes involving ambulances, fire trucks and squad cars.
There can be complex legal issues at play. A lawyer can identify who is liable and what insurance coverages (including employer policies) may apply. For example, motorists are required to pull over to allow emergency vehicles to pass. Did another driver cause the emergency responders to crash into you? While emergency vehicles have the right of way, they cannot simply barrel through a red light. Ambulances, fire trucks and police cars can run red lights and stop signs, but they must slow down before proceeding through the intersection. Did the driver of the emergency vehicle use appropriate caution?