The sight of an emergency response vehicle is usually a relief to those who are in desperate need of help. However, there are some instances when these emergency vehicles cause more harm then the help they intend to bring to the scene. A national study found that there is an average of 4,500 crashes per year in the United States involving ambulances, alone. About one-third of these accidents resulted in injuries. At one point, the city of Philadelphia had a very high incidence of vehicle accidents involving emergency vehicles that topped out at almost 300 per year within city limits. It is easy for an emergency response vehicle to ignore a traffic signal or drive in the wrong direction or lane, and cause an accident as a result.
The Impact of the Accident Goes Far Beyond the Crash
The importance of vehicle safety amongst those driving emergency response vehicles poses an interesting problem. Crashes involving emergency vehicles can cause an impact that reaches farther than the injuries directly resulting from the crash. The impact of the crash reaches the community that is affected by the loss of emergency response personnel and vehicles due to these injuries. Many emergency personnel workers are forced into retirement from these injuries or are assigned to administrative duties because they are unable to work in the field. Damage to emergency vehicles also renders them out of service until the costly repairs are made, which can mean fewer emergency resources available in the community. Last, the increased costs to the community because of these accidents leaves fewer resources to invest in the maintenance and upkeep of the existing emergency services infrastructure.
Many times, accidents caused by emergency service vehicles can be attributed to the fault of the emergency personnel’s negligence. Emergency vehicles can cause accidents by speeding through intersections without checking for approaching traffic, failing to properly use sirens and lights, driving through areas that are too narrow, or simply speeding in traffic. Even though these vehicles may be used to respond to emergencies, Pennsylvania law still requires that the drivers act with a duty of care to drive with regard for the safety of all persons on the road.
If you have been involved in an accident with an emergency response vehicle, you may want to seek reimbursement from the government agency that is responsible for that vehicle and driver. However, you may run into complications when trying to collect on the damages you incurred. Generally, governments and municipalities are immune from any responsibility in these types of situations, unless there is proof of specific circumstances, i.e. negligence on the part of the employee acting in the scope of his employment with the government agency and the damages being sought are recoverable under common law by a person that would not have a defense of governmental immunity.
When government agencies are involved there is an extra layer of formalities necessary to understand in order to seek reimbursement for any injuries caused in an accident with an emergency response vehicle. If you have been involved in an accident, it is in your best interest to contact a knowledgeable Philadelphia auto accident attorney immediately.