We count on emergency vehicles like fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars to get help to us as quickly as possible when we’re in distress. In Texas, emergency vehicles are given special driving privileges when responding to a call, including the ability to speed, disregard traffic signals, and drive on the shoulder. However, this behavior, while sometimes necessary, can result in serious accidents.
Nobody expects to be involved in a Houston wreck with an emergency vehicle, but fire trucks alone have been reported to be involved in roughly 30,000 crashes each year, resulting in thousands of injuries. If you have experienced an emergency vehicle accident, you may have learned that determining liability is not always cut-and-dry.
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Determining Fault in Accidents That Involve Emergency Vehicles
Crashes that involve emergency vehicles are not like other automobile accidents. Unlike your average passenger car wreck, crashes that involve an ambulance, fire truck, or police vehicle usually require overcoming more than a few legal hurdles. When determining who is liable for the crash, there are a few parties that may need to be considered. They could include:
- The driver of the emergency vehicle
- State government agencies
- Local government agencies
- Federal government agencies
- Private ambulance companies
- The emergency vehicle manufacturer
Government agencies have immunity which restricts people involved in emergency vehicle crashes from taking the same actions they would with a civilian driver or insurance company. For instance, in your average wreck, the at-fault party could be sued for damages. In an emergency vehicle crash, however, the victim could be stuck with the bill even if they weren’t at fault, all because an emergency vehicle is operated by designated agencies which are partly owned by the government.
Under the Texas Tort Claims Act, sovereign immunity protects public officials from liability when they are acting in good faith and performing within their scope of duty. These guidelines are extremely broad, making things complicated if a victim attempts to recover any damages they caused. With that being said, it is not impossible to sue these agencies. A few reasons a first responder could be at fault for an emergency vehicle crash are:
- Reckless driving
- Driving while drowsy
- Driving under the influence
- Failure to follow rules of the road
- Unrestrained equipment hitting another vehicle
Victims of emergency vehicle crashes have an elevated burden of proof placed upon them. If you believe that the driver of an emergency vehicle that hit you was negligent, you will need to collect as much evidence as you can get your hands on. Helpful items include:
- Video surveillance
- Witness statements
- Badge numbers
It may be overwhelming to know what is and isn’t useful for this kind of accident claim, but an experienced car accident attorney will be able to assist you in collecting evidence for your case.
Hire a Board-Certified Personal Injury Attorney in Houston, Texas
Ambulances and fire trucks are gigantic vehicles with a hefty amount of weight and power. In the event of a crash, these vehicles have the potential to cause catastrophic damage. Despite this, there are few state or federal laws that regulate emergency vehicle insurance coverage. Guidelines for emergency vehicle insurance are usually left up to local municipalities, meaning coverage varies widely from agency to agency and normally leaves you to foot the bill.
The city of Houston is no stranger to fatal accidents that require emergency vehicle transports. If you want a fighting chance of recovering your damages, you’ll need the best Houston car accident lawyer you know, a skilled accident and personal injury attorney on your side. Partner with the legal experts at Sutliff & Stout to ensure the protection of your rights after your Houston crash. See why thousands of Texans trust us to fight their cases. Call (713) 987-7111 or complete an online contact form to schedule a free review of your emergency vehicle accident case today. Video consultations are available.