Bright red, large and often fast-moving, fire trucks are difficult to overlook, especially when their sirens are blaring. Motorists typically report large vehicles that are speeding and weaving in and out of lanes. However, when these vehicles are operated by the city or county, and when they’re responding to emergencies, drivers and pedestrians alike have a responsibility to give fire trucks the right of way.
These and other factors make accidents involving fire trucks far different from all other collisions. Filing a claim against a municipality, particularly one that involves first responders, can be tricky. These claims tend to involve a number of issues that are not typical of other accidents. If you’ve recently been involved in a collision with a fire truck, there are several important things that you need to know.
Sovereign Immunity and What It Means
Sovereign immunity is a government provision that exists to protect cities, counties and other municipal bodies that own and operate agencies and equipment. Also referred to as governmental immunity, it protects government entities from being subject to lawsuits. Governmental immunity has existed in the United states since 1793 and ensures that only lawsuits that the government allows itself to be subject to are honored.
It’s vital to note that the use of sovereign immunity and the laws pertaining to it can vary from state to state. Generally speaking, when emergency vehicles are involved in accidents, local government bodies will often acknowledge what they deem as being valid personal injury lawsuits. However, even when this is the case, this does not mean that filing and pursuing these claims will be easy. Thus, if you are an accident victim in any case in which sovereign immunity can be claimed, it is important to align yourself with a reputable accident lawyer.
Determining Whether a Claim Is Valid
Each accident is unique, particularly when emergency response vehicles are involved. These vehicles have permission to take actions and use aggressive driving tactics that other vehicles do not. The ability of their drivers to effectively navigate through and around traffic can be life-saving. It is not uncommon for fire trucks to travel at speeds as high as 75 miles per hour.
Although drivers around the country understand that they should pull over to the right upon hearing a fire truck’s siren, doing so may not always be possible. In-car distractions such as loud music or loud passengers can also make it difficult for people to hear fire truck sirens in time to take the necessary evasive actions. Among some of the most common causes of accidents with fire trucks are:
- Failure to pull over
- Driving at excessively slow speeds when passing the scene of an accident
- Attempting to take pictures of accidents while passing them
In accidents involving any of these driver errors, the government is unlikely to provide any legal remedy for those who are harmed in collisions.
When Fire Truck Drivers Are Negligent
While those who drive fire trucks are government employees and are therefore protected by the same sovereign immunity that the cities or counties they work for enjoy, this does not mean that they are incapable of being negligent while on the job, or that they do not make poor driving decisions.
In fact, many fire truck operators are guilty of taking unnecessary risks that cause pedestrian and motorist injuries. When they do, the government bodies that have employed them should be held accountable.
Fire truck drivers can make many of the same mistakes that other motorists make including:
- Driving while fatigued
- Driving while impaired
- Engaging in reckless driving
- Speeding unnecessarily
- Disregarding general road rules
Although fire truck drivers can speed through intersections and make other aggressive and high-risk maneuvers, there may be times when they do so even though these tactics aren’t necessary for addressing the situation at hand. In these instances, negligence on the part of the fire fighter operator could make the city or county liable for all resulting damages.
How Accidents With Fire Trucks Can Impact People’s Lives
Aside from many commercial trucks, fire trucks are often the largest vehicles on the road. Moreover, they are frequently the fastest moving, even as they leverage high-risk driving tactics in high-traffic areas. For these reasons, the crash force when being hit by one of these vehicles can be tremendous.
Thus, even as fire truck drivers rush to save lives, they can also be guilty of taking them. Accidents with fire trucks can result in serious, debilitating and disfiguring injuries, crushing injuries, traumatic brain injury, loss of limbs and loss of life.
While seeking damages after being hit by a fire truck isn’t always easy, getting a fair settlement when the fire truck driver was at fault is not impossible. With knowledgeable and experienced representation, accident victims can ensure that their claims are acknowledged within the related municipalities. Settlements for these events can be significant enough to cover essential medical treatments and therapies, even as they provide additional compensation for all related pain and suffering.