When we call the emergency line for help, we expect to be assisted right away. It’s our right. But what would happen if you were never assisted? What would happen if you were being transported, but an accident happened before you could even get to the hospital? Or, what if you were just driving as normal, but a first responder vehicle hits you out of the blue? Accidents involving these vehicles are becoming increasingly common, which is terrifying since they’re supposed to be vehicles that help people in times of emergency.
How do these accidents occur?
There are many instances in which first responder vehicles have sped down the road at unnecessarily high speeds, running red lights left and right. Both police cars and EMTs have been known to do this. This greatly increases the chances of collisions. Several years ago in Memphis, a patient was being transported for a non-emergent surgery. Knowing that the surgery was not urgent, the ambulance continued to use sirens and travel at very high speeds, leading to a collision involving a vehicle waiting at a red light.
In 2022, there was a string of accidents involving first responder vehicles in Memphis. In July, a fire engine crash left one person seriously injured. In early August, while responding to a house fire, a fire engine was involved in a tragic accident. One civilian was left in critical condition, one firefighter was killed, and three other firefighters were injured. A few days after this one, a motorcyclist was killed by a Memphis fire engine as the truck was pulling out of the station in response to a call. Whether or not these may seem like a pure coincidence, there is no doubt that first responder vehicles should be held accountable when negligent actions have been taken.
What kinds of injuries can you sustain?
As with any auto accident, many different types of injuries can be sustained from an accident with a first responder vehicle; however, these injuries can easily be doubled since a fire truck can weigh up to 60,000 pounds. Although an ambulance weighs much less than this at an average of 10,000 pounds, it can still deal a lot of damage in collisions. Mild injuries can include sprains, road rash, general soreness, bumps and bruises, puncture wounds, and lacerations. More severe injuries include traumatic brain injuries, spinal fractures, broken bones, internal bruising and bleeding, and psychological injuries.
Many of these damages can result in long-term consequences, some possibly affecting the individual for life. They can suffer chronic pain, like constant back pain with no solution, to the point where they are unable to carry out daily tasks. They could undergo memory and cognitive problems, unable to remember simple things. There can also be emotional and personality changes. Traumatic brain injuries, if severe enough, can cause the injured victim to go into a coma or permanent vegetative state. The injured party may suffer mental anguish and post-traumatic stress disorder, resulting in relationships being affected.
Tennessee’s applicable state laws
There are a few different laws to consider when moving forward with a claim involving a first responder vehicle. The “Good Samaritan” law protects medical providers, such as paramedics and rescue personnel, from civil damages when participating in a rescue; however, this typically applies when it’s regarding the individual that they’re supposed to be rescuing. If another individual was injured by them while they were on the way to do so, then they could be entitled to compensation.
Another Tennessee law that protects emergency vehicles when responding to a call states they are to proceed with caution at red lights and stop signs. They must first slow down as necessary to safely cross. They can exceed the speed limit so long as they can do so safely and without putting anyone in harm’s way. When a negligent first responder vehicle fails to follow this law, there may be a claim on their hands.
Is it possible to sue first responders for motor vehicle accidents?
Whether you’re being transported or you’re just an individual who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, you could be entitled to compensation if you’ve been injured by a first responder vehicle. Claims against government agencies could seem discouraging and difficult. They might be handled a little differently, but the basic principles and laws still apply. One could argue that this may even be a simpler case compared to a negligent driver that caused an accident while having no insurance.
So, yes. It most certainly is possible to sue first responder departments, but it’s crucial to get on it right away. If you were injured in a collision with a first responder vehicle, whether it’s a tow truck, ambulance, or police vehicle, you should immediately get a hold of an experienced Memphis car accident attorney. Some factors can become a little tricky since we are dealing with a government agency, but the most important thing to consider is Tennessee’s Civil Statute of Limitations. Whereas many other states normally have a limit of two years, plaintiffs in Tennessee only have one year to file a personal injury lawsuit. Do not wait to contact your lawyer for this type of accident – or you may miss out on a settlement opportunity.
Memphis has had an unusual uptick of first responder vehicle accidents recently. Becoming involved in one of these accidents may be intimidating because of the nature of their occupations; however, if you’ve sustained any type of injury from an accident with these vehicles, contact an experienced attorney at Bailey & Greer in Memphis. Call our office or submit our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We maintain an additional office in Jackson for your convenience.
As founder of Bailey & Greer, R. Sadler Bailey has battled his fair share of insurance giants and wrongdoers and has achieved numerous multimillion-dollar results for the victims of catastrophic injuries and their families. What’s more, he has been involved in more than 40 appellate court decisions affecting Tennessee personal injury law, including many landmark appearances before the Tennessee Supreme Court.
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