Ambulance Crashes: Who's Liable?

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Determining fault when an ambulance crashes can be complex. While the ambulance driver may be liable for a patient's injuries in certain situations, such as driving under the influence or failing to use emergency lights and sirens, another driver could also be at fault. In such cases, it is important to consult a legal team to investigate the circumstances and scrutinize driving factors. The majority of the time, it comes down to comparative negligence, where liability is determined by whether or not the other driver had the opportunity to yield to the emergency vehicle.

Characteristics Values
Ambulance accidents can be severe They endanger the lives of paramedics, patients, and other motorists
Determining fault can be difficult It depends on whether the ambulance driver followed the correct procedures and whether other drivers yielded to the ambulance
Ambulance accidents are common In 2020, 180 people died in crashes involving emergency vehicles
Ambulance drivers are under a lot of pressure They need to transport patients quickly and safely, often through heavy traffic and intersections
Ambulance drivers can be at fault If they take unnecessary risks, drive recklessly, or are under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Other drivers can be at fault If they fail to yield to the ambulance, speed, or fail to follow other driving rules
Ambulance companies can be liable If the ambulance driver is found to be at fault, the company may be liable for the victim's injuries
Comparative negligence is considered If a driver could have stopped or avoided an accident but didn't, they may be liable
Emergency vehicles have certain exemptions They can drive on shoulders, speed, and pass red lights in emergencies, but must consider the safety of other road users
Claims against emergency services are possible Individuals can claim compensation for injuries caused by emergency vehicles under certain conditions

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Ambulance driver liability

Additionally, an ambulance driver may be found at fault and held liable for a patient's injuries if they are found guilty of causing the accident, such as through reckless driving, driving under the influence, or failing to activate emergency lights and sirens. The ambulance company may also be held liable in such cases.

However, it is important to note that not all accidents are the fault of the ambulance driver. In some cases, another driver may be responsible for the accident due to their own negligence, such as speeding or failing to yield to emergency vehicles.

When determining liability, it is crucial to consider the specific circumstances of each case, including witness testimonies, video footage, and the investigation findings. The rules of the road, as set out by the local highway code and traffic laws, apply to all road users, including emergency vehicles. While emergency vehicles are exempt from certain rules in emergency situations, they must still exercise duty of care and consider the safety of other road users.

In summary, ambulance driver liability depends on various factors, including the driver's conduct, adherence to safety protocols, and the presence of negligence or reckless behaviour. Each case must be evaluated individually to determine fault and liability.

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Patient safety precautions

Patient safety is paramount in the event of an ambulance crash. Here are some precautions to ensure patient safety:

  • Secure the patient's gurney and fasten the gurney to the emergency straps in the ambulance.
  • Secure all equipment inside the ambulance to prevent further injuries.
  • Use lights and sirens sparingly — a recent study found that ambulances operating without lights or sirens were less likely to be involved in crashes.
  • Avoid unnecessary speeding and always yield to other vehicles at intersections.
  • Wear seatbelts — in the event of a crash, this will help prevent patients and paramedics from being ejected from the ambulance.
  • Avoid driving while fatigued — driver fatigue is a common cause of accidents and can be mitigated by taking regular breaks and adhering to maximum duty hour limits.
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Emergency vehicle exemptions

Emergency vehicles are afforded certain exemptions that allow them to break standard road rules. For example, in Victoria, Australia, enforcement vehicles are exempt from standard road rules when using flashing purple lights or sounding an alarm. In the United States, emergency vehicles can drive on shoulders, speed, and run red lights in emergency situations. However, emergency vehicles are still expected to exercise a standard of care and consideration for the safety of others.

Despite these exemptions, emergency vehicles can still be held liable for accidents and resulting injuries. For example, an ambulance driver may be liable for a patient's injuries if they are found guilty of causing an accident, driving under the influence, or failing to turn on emergency lights and sirens. In such cases, the ambulance company may be held liable for the victim's injuries.

It's important to note that the determination of fault in accidents involving emergency vehicles can be complex and depend on various factors, such as the specific circumstances of the incident and local laws. The legal concept of sovereign immunity, which protects government entities from lawsuits, may also come into play, although it doesn't always shield local governments from liability.

If you are involved in an accident with an emergency vehicle, it is recommended to consult a personal injury lawyer to understand your legal options and rights. They can help you navigate the complexities of determining fault and liability, especially when dealing with government agencies or emergency service employers.

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Witness and expert scrutiny

When determining fault in an accident involving an ambulance, witness and expert scrutiny will be necessary. This is especially true when answering questions regarding the circumstances of the accident, such as whether the ambulance's lights and sirens were active and visible/audible, and whether the driver of the other vehicle had the opportunity to pull over or avoid the ambulance.

In the case of an accident, witnesses can provide valuable information about the events leading up to and during the incident. They can attest to the speed of the vehicles involved, whether any traffic laws were broken, and the overall driving conditions at the time. Expert scrutiny will also be necessary to analyse the physical evidence from the accident, such as vehicle damage, skid marks, and resting positions of the vehicles. Experts can reconstruct the accident to determine the speed and trajectory of the vehicles, which can help establish fault.

In addition to witness and expert scrutiny, investigations and field inspections from various agencies are also conducted. These investigations typically include drug and alcohol screenings for all drivers involved, as well as an examination of the vehicles' "black boxes" to retrieve data on speed, braking, and other factors that can help determine fault.

It is important to note that the determination of fault in these situations can be complex and may involve legal proceedings. The outcome may result in a percentage or degree of fault assigned to each party involved.

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Comparative negligence

When an ambulance crashes, determining fault can be challenging. In the US, a crash involving an ambulance is not considered medical malpractice but a motor vehicle accident. This means that liability is determined through investigation and/or litigation, just like a regular car accident.

In the majority of cases, determining fault comes down to comparative negligence. This means that both the plaintiff and the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit can be found responsible for damages. If a court finds both parties negligent, the plaintiff's liability will be set as a percentage and subtracted from their total compensation.

For example, if a drunk driver runs a red light and collides with your car while you were reading a text message, a judge might determine that the drunk driver is 90% responsible for the accident, while you are 10% responsible. If you are awarded $10,000, it will be reduced by the 10% you were at fault, resulting in a final award of $9,000.

In the context of an ambulance crash, if an ambulance driver is found to be at fault, the ambulance company may be liable for the victim's injuries. However, there are scenarios where another driver is responsible for the accident due to speeding, failing to yield, etc.

Ambulance drivers are under a lot of pressure to transport patients quickly and safely, and this often means maneuvering through heavy traffic and congested intersections using flashing lights and sirens. If an ambulance driver takes unnecessary risks and causes an accident that results in serious injuries, they would be liable for those injuries. For example, if an ambulance driver neglects to turn on their sirens or flashing lights, or if they are found to be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

On the other hand, if a driver could have stopped, pulled over, or otherwise allowed the ambulance to pass but failed to do so, they may be found liable for the accident.

It is important to note that emergency vehicles must abide by the rules of the road except in emergency situations. They are permitted to drive on shoulders, speed, and go through red lights in emergency situations.

When it comes to insurance claims following an accident with an ambulance, it is recommended to involve more than just your insurance company, as the process can be complex and both parties may argue fault.

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Frequently asked questions

If an ambulance hits your vehicle, don't panic. Pull over and contact the police. The ambulance driver will likely alert their dispatch about the crash and continue to the hospital. If the ambulance was not responding to an emergency, the incident will be treated as a normal accident.

If you hit an ambulance, you will need a legal team to assess the situation. They will determine if you had the opportunity to pull over and if the ambulance's lights and sirens were active and visible/audible. Witness accounts and crash recreation experts will also be needed to establish fault.

If you're a patient involved in an accident while riding in an ambulance and suffer additional injuries, you may be entitled to compensation. The ambulance driver may be liable if they are found guilty of causing the accident, driving recklessly, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

No, emergency services drivers are not exempt from the law. They have a duty of care towards other road users and must consider their safety. However, they can exceed speed limits and ignore certain traffic signals when responding to an emergency.

If an emergency vehicle is approaching, try to move out of its way when it is safe to do so. If the vehicle drives too close to you while you're attempting to pull over, this could be deemed reckless, and you may be compensated if an accident occurs.

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