We rely upon emergency vehicles, such as ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars, to help us when we’re sick, injured, or in danger. When an emergency vehicle responds to an incident, it must often travel at speeds above the speed limit, weave in and out of traffic, and blow through traffic lights without stopping. While these driving practices may help save the life of a person being transported, they can also put other innocent drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians at risk.
Here’s what Brooklynites need to know about emergency vehicle accidents and how liability is determined if you are involved in one of these types of crashes.
Common Causes of Emergency Vehicle Accidents
These are some of the most common causes of emergency vehicle accidents in Brooklyn:
- Speeding through intersections
- Not stopping at red lights and stop signs
- Being distracted with dispatch communications
- Mental and emotional stress
- Working around drivers who don’t yield to emergency vehicles
- Hazardous road conditions
Frequency of Emergency Vehicle Accidents
The New York State Department of Health has found that there are at least 400 ambulance accidents or crashes each year that injure approximately two people per day. Department research also shows that about 75 percent of these accidents could have been prevented if EMS vehicles stopped at every controlled intersection. Due to the high speeds involved, accidents involving emergency vehicles are much more likely to cause fatalities than the national average.
Determining Liability for Emergency Vehicle Accidents
Local and state governments recognize that emergency vehicles need special privileges, and the Vehicle and Traffic Law provides operators with exceptions from the traffic expectation of other vehicles. Although emergency vehicles can bend the laws a bit when responding to an emergency, they still must adhere to limits and regulations to maintain public safety. For example, the maximum speed for an EMS vehicle to travel in oncoming traffic lanes is 20 mph, and emergency vehicles should maintain a 300-400 feet distance when traveling in emergency conditions.
Emergency vehicles are required to use lights and sirens to warn others about their presence and always have regard for the safety of all people around them. In the event of an accident, a court can find that an emergency vehicle operator disregarded risks of harm and thereby harmed others due to this recklessness. Major U.S. cities pay out millions of dollars each year for settlements and verdicts related to accidents that involve their emergency vehicles. But not surprisingly, these cases are often difficult to pursue, which is why you need an experienced attorney on your side if an emergency vehicle was involved in your accident.
The Law Office of Jeffrey K. Kestenbaum can assist you with emergency vehicle accident cases and determine whether an emergency responder is liable for either reckless disregard or ordinary negligence. As these cases typically involve large and powerful public entities, we are also knowledgeable about the relevant statute of limitation rules and how to best protect your rights.
Contact us today at 718-237-5586 to tell us your story and for a free case review.