Every day, police officers, firefighters, and paramedics respond to hundreds of calls for help. While the majority of these calls go off without a hitch, there's always the potential for an accident to occur. If you're ever involved in an accident with a responding emergency vehicle, then you'll need to know what to do and how handle the fallout.
Whose Fault Is It?
As always, the issue of fault depends on the type of accident that occurred, the actions of the involved drivers up to that point, and other legal considerations. For instance, you're likely to be found at fault if you fail to yield to any emergency vehicle with its lights and siren activated. On the other hand, the emergency responder may be liable if they strike your vehicle without having their lights and siren in operation.
As another example, you're likely to be found at fault if the insurance company can prove you were distracted by using your smartphone while driving. However, a police officer or firefighter is less likely to be found at fault for the same due to the nature of their work. Police officers often use their on-board computers, radios, and cell phones to remain in contact with dispatchers and respond to emergencies.
There are also other factors that can determine which parties are to be held at fault and that influence the amount of fault they're responsible for. These factors include driver fatigue, being under the influence of controlled substances, and the loss of improperly secured equipment.
What Should You Do?
The steps for handling an accident involving an emergency vehicle are nearly the same as an accident involving any other type of vehicle. If you're not in any immediate danger or suffering from severe injury, you should contact your insurance provider to report the accident and collect as much photographic evidence and witness testimony as possible.
The only difference is that instead of dealing with the other party's insurance provider, you'll likely end up dealing with the government entity the emergency responders work for. It's not out of the ordinary for local and state governments to self-insure their emergency vehicles rather than deal with an insurance provider. As a result, you'll likely need to file a claim directly with the responsible government entity.
Every city, county, and state government has its own set of rules and deadlines for filing personal injury claims against them. These rules can become confusing at times, and it's easy to accidentally miss deadlines or make mistakes in the claims process. To make sure your claim goes smoothly, you'll want to have your auto accident lawyer on hand to guide you through the process and make sure there aren't any mistakes being made.
What About Sovereign Immunity?
Sovereign immunity is an issue that always comes up when it comes to claims against emergency responders employed by a municipal, county, or state government. Sovereign immunity laws are designed to help shield these and other government officials from certain types of lawsuits, especially those that may be deemed frivolous by a court of law. Depending on the circumstances, the emergency responder may be covered under these laws, making it extremely difficult to pursue a personal injury claim against them.
This isn't to say that sovereign immunity is an ironclad defense against a personal injury claim. In cases where the emergency responder displayed extreme negligence during his or her duties leading up to the accident, the courts may reject a sovereign immunity defense and allow your personal injury claim to proceed in court.
Getting into an accident with an emergency vehicle can be an unexpected hassle. An experienced auto accident attorney can help you receive fair and just compensation for any injuries you've sustained during the accident.