First responders such as police car, ambulances, fire trucks, and similar vehicles move quickly and impact how traffic flows throughout the city. Our Hudson car accident attorneys have handled many cases involving car accidents between citizens’ vehicles and emergency vehicles. These accidents may involve ambulances causing accidents such as rear ending other vehicles and striking pedestrians.
Motorists are obliged to handle their vehicles in a reasonable and prudent manner so that foreseeable harm does not come to other parties on the road. They must see what is to be seen and they must hear what there is to be heard. Therefore, motorists must always be on the lookout for the lights and sirens of emergency vehicles to avoid causing a car accident.
Of course emergency vehicles, with their lights and sirens engaged, responding to emergencies have the right of way on public roads. In fact, Section 1104 of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law exempts first responders in designated vehicles from various traffic regulations. For example, first responders engaged in emergencies may exceed the posted speed limit and they may disregard traffic lights and stop signs.
This statute, however, does not give first responders a free pass to drive however they so desire. They must not be reckless. Ambulances must slow down while going through intersections. They must also slow down depending traffic conditions and the circumstances present at the time of the emergency. As stated in subsection (e) of Section 1104, first responders must still operate their vehicles with “due regard for the safety of all persons”.
Subsection (f) of the same section grants localities the authority to prohibit ambulance travel on certain roads if emergency response on those roads is deemed too hazardous. Generally, as with any action in negligence, a jury will weigh the facts of the case in order to determine liability.
What is reasonable and/or necessary is a fact intensive inquiry. The ways in which a first responder operated an emergency vehicle during an emergency can be reasonable in some situations, but unreasonable in other situations. Additionally, in order to receive section 1104 exemptions, any disregard for traffic laws must only be done after emergency lights and sirens have been engaged. Further, an actual emergency must be present and only a statutorily defined “emergency vehicle” may be used if claiming Section 1104 exemptions.
The attorneys at Greenberg and Greenberg handle car accident cases throughout New York State, including Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, and Albany County. Our legal team has earned a reputation for dedicated service to our clients injured in New York personal injury accidents. Please contact us today to receive a free case evaluation by dialing locally to 518-828-3336 or call toll free at 877-469-9300.