Emergency Vehicle Crashes

New Orleans Car Accident LawyerWhen a person thinks of police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, or other emergency vehicles he or she thinks of ways in which they can help people in the time of a crisis. Drivers of emergency vehicles usually rush to the scene of a crime or injury with the mindset of helping others. However, it does occur that these vehicle operators can cause accidents as they rush to wherever they are going.  These crashes will cause horrific injuries due to the high speed in which the emergency vehicle is travelling at the time of the crash. It is a huge shock to suffer an injury or witness the death of a family member or friend as a result of a collision with an emergency vehicle. From 1991-2000, the most recent years for which data is available, 300 fatal crashes occurred involving occupied ambulances, resulting in the deaths of 82 ambulance occupants and 275 occupants of other vehicles and pedestrians. The 300 crashes involved a total of 816 ambulance occupants. Statistics also show that motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for on-duty firefighters. Fire truck crashes, occurring at a rate of approximately 30,000 crashes per year, have potentially dire consequences for the vehicle occupants and for the community if the fire truck was traveling to provide emergency services. Due to the sheer size of the ambulance, fire truck, or other emergency vehicle, the injuries sustained from such a collision can be catastrophic. They may include cuts and bruises, neck and back injuries, spinal cord damage, whip lash, broken bones and amputation, and even death.

Because of the complicated legal issues that may arise, it is important to have an experienced Louisiana car accident lawyer on your side if you have been injured by an emergency vehicle. Louisiana law provides different presumptions and immunities for emergency vehicles. Louisiana Revised Statute 32:24 holds the key for emergency vehicle immunities. It states, “That the driver or rider of an authorized emergency vehicle, when responding to an emergency call, or when in the pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law, or when responding to, but not upon returning from, a fire alarm, may exercise the privileges set forth in this section, but subject to the conditions herein stated. The driver or rider of an authorized emergency vehicle may do any of the following:
1.    Park or stand, irrespective of the provisions of this Chapter .
2.     Proceed past a red or stop signal or stop sign, but only after slowing down or stopping as may be necessary for safe operation.
3.    Exceed the maximum speed limits so long as he does not endanger life or property.
4.    Disregard regulations governing the direction of movement or turning in specified directions.
A.    The exceptions herein granted to an authorized emergency vehicle shall apply only when such vehicle or bicycle is making use of audible or visual signals, including the use of a peace officer cycle rider's whistle, sufficient to warn motorists of their approach, except that a police vehicle need not be equipped with or display a red light visible from in front of the vehicle.
B.    The foregoing provisions shall not relieve the driver or rider of an authorized vehicle from the duty to drive or ride with due regard for the safety of all persons, nor shall such provisions protect the driver or rider from the consequences of his reckless disregard for the safety of others.”
Louisiana law provides that this immunity statute will only apply under certain circumstances. There are two standards of care applied to emergency vehicles. First, the “due care” standard is ordinary negligence and the second, “reckless disregard” standard means gross negligence. The reckless-disregard standard applies, if and only if, the driver’s actions meet certain enumerated criteria, and if the criteria are not met then the driver will be held to the standard of due care. There are also important ramifications for a driver of a non-emergency vehicle when they spot an emergency vehicle using their lights. Louisiana Revised Statute 32:125 provides:
A. “Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle making use of audible or visual signals, or of a police vehicle properly and lawfully making use of an audible signal only, the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the highway clear of any intersection, and shall stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer.
B.  When any vehicle making use of any visual signals as authorized by law, including the display of alternately flashing amber or yellow warning lights, is parked on or near the highway, the driver of every other vehicle shall:
(1)  When driving on an interstate highway or other highway with two or more lanes traveling in the same direction, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the parked vehicle, if possible with due regard to safety and traffic conditions.  If a lane change is not possible, the driver shall slow to a reasonably safe speed.
(2)  Maintain a safe speed for road conditions, if unable or unsafe to change lanes, or driving on a two-lane road or highway.
C.  This Section shall not operate to relieve the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway.”
The Cardone Law Firm represents clients in auto accidents in the entire State of Louisiana including Ascension Parish, Donaldsonville, Assumption Parish, Napoleonville, Baton Rouge, Jefferson Parish, Estelle, Gretna, Harvey, Kenner, Marrero, Metairie, New Orleans, Terrytown, Westwego, Lafayette Parish, Lafourche Parish, Thibodaux, Livingston Parish, Orleans Parish, Plaquemines Parish, Belle Chasse, and St. Charles Parish.

Because an auto accident with an emergency vehicle can create multiple issues and significant needs, an injured party should hire an experienced New Orleans attorney who not only handles car accidents for injured parties, but also has the resources necessary to provide for an injured person’s medical needs as well as the hiring of experts from a variety of fields in order to increase the value of the case. Cliff Cardone has practiced law nearly 40 years and has primarily handled personal-injury matters. If you have been injured in an auto accident, Phone Cardone at 1-888-892-2736 or 504-522-3333 for a free in person consultation. He is direct, insightful, proactive, and passionate about his client’s cases.