Emergency services vehicles include fire brigades, ambulances and police vehicles. If you are unlucky enough to be involved in an accident with an emergency vehicle from any one of these services, it can bring to the fore a whole lot of questions and doubts, such as:
- You know you have the right to claim for compensation in the case of a road accident not caused by your actions but can you claim injury compensation when the other vehicle in question belongs to an emergency service?
- Are the emergency services immune to any legal implications in the case of an accident in which they are involved?
- What if the accident occurred while the vehicle was in the middle of an emergency? Does that clear the driver of any fault?
The answers may surprise you.
Emergency vehicles, whether they belong to the fire brigade, ambulance service or the police department, have no special rights with regards to liability if they are involved in an accident with another vehicle. In the case of an accident in which the emergency services vehicle is at fault, they are governed by the same road users’ laws that govern all other vehicles on the road. That means, depending on the factors that led up to the accident, you may be entitled to claim for personal injury compensation in the case of an accident against any emergency services vehicle.
Emergency Services Have Road Safety Obligations Too
Even when speeding to respond to an emergency, the emergency services are under obligation to show due care and responsibility to all other road users.
What this means:
If the emergency vehicle is not involved in any emergency situation, it has to follow the road rules and the traffic lights just like all other road users.
In an emergency, an emergency vehicle is allowed to run a red light if slowing down or stopping would mean hindering its ability to respond in time. However, it can only do this after putting on its siren and beacon to alert other drivers. At all times, care has to be taken not to endanger the safety of other road users or pedestrians.
With regards to the speed limit, emergency vehicles are under obligation to observe the speed limit when not attending to an emergency situation.
In an emergency, these vehicles do not have to observe the regular speed limits. They would have to speed up to get to their destination as soon as possible but even then, the driver must be in full control of the vehicle at all times. Also, no matter what the urgency, the driver of an emergency vehicle has to first take into consideration the safety of all other road users.
When Emergency Vehicles Are Held Liable
Some of the more common situations where an emergency services vehicle may be held liable in case of an accident would include:
- Failure to put on its beacon or sound its siren
- Failure to heed the safety of other vehicles or pedestrians
- Flouting all road rules and traffic lights when there is no urgency
What Do You Do If You’re Involved In An Accident With An Emergency Services Vehicle?
- The first thing you need to do is get the necessary details from the emergency vehicle driver. You will need the driver’s name and contact details and the vehicle number.
- Assess your injuries. If you or anyone else is seriously injured, get immediate medical help.
As with any other road accident, for your compensation claim to be successful, the most important thing is to be able to prove that the vehicle driver was responsible for the accident. There are several things you can do that will help.
- Get the names and contact numbers of anybody around who witnessed the accident.
- Get photographs of the accident site.
- Make notes on all major as well as minor details related to the accident, from the exact location and position to the prevailing weather conditions at the time.
- Get a medical assessment on your injuries and the prescribed care and treatment to be followed. You will need this to support your compensation claim.
It’s natural to feel a bit hesitant about reporting an accident with an emergency services vehicle to the police. However, it is always better to call the emergency services so they can conduct a thorough assessment of the incident and render the help needed to those who are injured.