It is impossible to overstate the critical role played by emergency personnel such as police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. Their ability to render essential aid during times of crisis is something upon which every citizen relies. However, there are circumstances in which the rapid response on which we place such tremendous value is executed in a manner which causes innocent parties to suffer serious injuries or worse. When an auto accident is the result of negligent operation of an emergency vehicle, it can sometimes be difficult for victims to secure the financial compensation they need and deserve. Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal understands the complexity of cases involving emergency responders and other governmental entities and is prepared to tackle the distinct procedural challenges these types of cases present.
Common Causes of Emergency Vehicle Accidents
When an emergency situation arises, it is of vital importance that first responders have the ability to reach the scene as quickly as possible. To that end, emergency vehicles are typically equipped with lights, sirens and other key mechanisms designed to facilitate their swift movement through traffic. The ability of these vehicles and their highly trained drivers to bypass conventional rules of the road when necessary aides in the rapid response times the citizenry demands. However, although emergency drivers are given fairly wide latitude in terms of making their way through traffic snarls, that is not to say that they have the right to drive in an unreasonably dangerous way, placing other at serious risk.
Some common examples of negligent operation of an emergency vehicle giving rise to injuries include:
- acceleration through busy intersections without first ensuring a clear path
- failing to utilize lights and sirens in order to properly alert nearby motorists of potentially unusual maneuvers
- negotiating turns at excessive rates of speed
- tailgating other vehicles
- attempting to squeeze through insufficiently large lane gaps
When an emergency response vehicle ends up causing accidental injury to other motorists, the irony is all too much. Rather than quickly reaching its destination in order to provide much-needed aid, an entirely separate emergency situation is produced. Victims of such events often feel a sense of betrayal by those meant to safeguard their well-being, and they owe it to themselves to pursue accountability from responsible parties.
Governmental Immunity Considerations
Accidents involving governmental entities, including those caused by an emergency vehicle, can be especially difficult for plaintiffs. The reason for this is that in many cases, the doctrine of governmental immunity protects such parties from liability in the event of a lawsuit. Governmental immunity generally covers police cars, ambulances, fire trucks and the like when they are operated in an attempt to prevent crimes, render emergency medical aid or respond to fires. As such, plaintiffs seeking to hold governmental agencies responsible in the aftermath of an accident face a series of unique challenges.
Though the emergency responders employed by governmental units are afforded significant leeway in terms of their duty to follow traffic rules while en route to a crisis situation, the fact of the matter is that they are still required to exercise reasonable care in order to prevent harm to other motorists. If lights and sirens are in use and care is taken to ensure safe operation of the emergency vehicle, governmental agents will likely be found immune from suit. However, if it can be shown that the emergency vehicle operator drove in an unreasonably dangerous manner considering the entire set of circumstances at play, and injuries to others ultimately followed, it is possible for the victims of that negligence to pursue compensation.
Establishing Liability in Emergency Vehicle Collisions
Given the existence of the governmental immunity doctrine, individuals who suffer harm caused by the driver of an emergency vehicle may feel as though they have little hope of prevailing. However, if there is evidence that the emergency responder did, in fact, operate their vehicle in an unreasonably dangerous way, the law does afford victims an opportunity for legal recourse.
The Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA) is designed to provide certain protections to governmental entities from legal claims, acts to limit potential recovery for plaintiffs and puts into place clear notice provisions which can effectively serve to restrict an injury victim's ability to file suit. Those who do not adhere to the regulations contained in the Act risk forfeiting their right to seek compensation. For this reason, it is vital that anyone who has been harmed in an accident involving an emergency vehicle in Colorado to consult with an attorney who understands the details of the CGIA and will ensure that all notice requirements and limitations periods are strictly observed.
Why Victims May Wish to File Suit
There can be no doubt that injuries stemming from an accident involving an emergency response vehicle are particularly frustrating for those who suffer them. The irony of sustaining serious harm at the hands of the professionals entrusted to protect public safety can make an already difficult situation that much worse. Such a breach of duty only serves to compound the other potentially life-changing consequences of an accident, which can include:
- mounting medical expenses
- ongoing emotional trauma
- inability to return to gainful employment
- reduction in future earning capacity
- damage to marital relationships
Given the often massive expenses that follow an automobile accident of any kind, victims routinely find themselves on the brink of financial disaster. Therefore, it is incumbent upon those who have been injured due to the negligent operation of an emergency vehicle to enlist the aid of an aggressive legal advocate who will seek compensation that may encompass:
- past, present and future medical bills
- costs of physical therapy and rehabilitation
- lost wages
- economic losses resulting from diminished earning potential
- expenses related to home accessibility modifications
Fighting for Colorado's Injured
The days and weeks following an accident involving a negligently operated emergency response vehicle can be marked by confusion, anger, and fear. While the law does provide victims of such incidents with the ability to pursue justice, the time available to do so is extremely limited.
The Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal stands ready and willing to initiate a complete investigation of the facts of your case and make certain that your claim is filed in a timely manner. To preserve your right to seek fair treatment and the compensation to which you are entitled, contact us at 303.825.2223.