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Drivers of ambulances, police cars, fire engines and other emergency vehicles may violate traffic laws when responding to an emergency. Emergency responders are allowed to break the speed limit, run a red light or stop sign, stop or park in areas where stopping or parking would not otherwise be allowed, and more. Despite the legal authority for emergency responders to violate traffic laws, they may still be held liable if they strike another vehicle or a pedestrian while driving. However, special rules do apply. If you are struck by an emergency vehicle, you will need the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced New York personal injury lawyer to help you get compensation for your damages.
One of the most important distinctions to understand is when an emergency responder is liable for ordinary negligence, and when a higher standard applies. Ordinary negligence is the standard that applies to most drivers on the road. It means that the driver has failed to drive with the standard of care reasonably expected of the average driver. Speeding, running a red light, failing to signal or look before making a turn or changing lanes, or texting while driving are examples of what might be negligent driving, and a person who causes an accident in any of these scenarios may be liable for such negligence.
The law gives an exception, however, to drivers of emergency vehicles. When responding to an emergency, not only are emergency responders allowed to violate the traffic laws as described above. They are also not liable for ordinary negligence that injures another. To hold an emergency responder liable, you must be able to prove that the driver acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others. “Reckless disregard” is a legal term; it is a standard of proof that is higher than “ordinary negligence.” In other words, it is harder to prove a case against an emergency responder and therefore more difficult to obtain compensation when injured by an emergency vehicle.
It is important to note that this higher standard only applies when the emergency vehicle is in the course of responding to an emergency. At other times, even emergency vehicles may be held to the ordinary negligence standard. To make matters more confusing, the New York Court of Appeals has held that the reckless disregard standard only applies when the emergency vehicle is violating the traffic laws. In other words, if an emergency vehicle is responding to an emergency but is obeying the traffic laws at the time an accident happens, the emergency responder may be held liable according to the lower standard of ordinary negligence. This may seem confusing, which is why it is important to retain the services of a qualified auto accident lawyer who can investigate the crash and determine how best to obtain compensation for your injuries.
Another important issue to know is that your claim against an emergency responder most likely involves a public entity, like a county or municipality. If this is the case, there are different rules to follow for filing a claim, and your timeframe is much shorter than the usual statute of limitations applied to most personal injury cases. You will want to contact an experienced personal injury attorney right away to protect your rights. Your lawyer will act quickly to determine if your claim involves public or private entities and be sure to rile the appropriate notices to preserve your rights.
If you were in a car that was hit by an emergency vehicle, or if you were struck by an emergency vehicle while crossing the street or getting out of your car, contact New York emergency vehicle accident attorney Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. for a free consultation regarding your rights to be compensated for your injuries.