You are driving down the street and hear a siren. You look around for the flashing red lights and suddenly you see an ambulance, firetruck or police vehicle approaching. What do you do?
Indiana Code 9-21-8-35 says the following:
Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicles, when the person who drives the authorized emergency vehicle is giving audible signal by siren or displaying alternately flashing red, red and white, or red and blue lights, a person who drives another vehicle shall do the following unless otherwise directed by a law enforcement officer:
(1) Yield the right-of-way.
(2) Immediately drive to a position parallel to an as close as possible to the right-hand edge or curb to the highway clear of any intersection
(3) Stop and remain in position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.
IC 9-21-17-20 also requires a pedestrian to yield to the right-of-way to the emergency vehicle. while the emergency vehicle has to operate with regard to the safety of persons driving in the vicinity, you have a statutory obligation to pull over and stop if it can be safely done.
Incidents involving emergency vehicles in Indiana, which are involved in personal injury are often difficult to pursue by the injured person. These accidents are governed by the Indiana Tort Claims Act which requires a statutory certified notice to be sent to the State and other governmental entities involved in the claim on thoughts to have caused the accident. This must be done within a specified amount of time (usually 180 days) or the injured person may not be able to make a claim arising out of an accident where the victim believes that the emergency vehicle operator was negligent. Failure to follow the statutory requirements may cause the claim to fail and be forever barred.
There are governmental immunity laws in Indiana for accident cases involving state or government defendants in lawsuits. It is much more difficult to successfully sue the governmental entity for what you believe was negligent operation of an emergency vehicle. Withouth question, a person making such a claim should hire an experienced personal injury attorney to “shepherd” them through these somewhat difficult claims and litigation requirements.
There have been a number of lawsuits in the State of Indiana involving emergency vehicles and the very serious injuries which result from the often high speeds involved in the collisions. The number of Indiana fatalities occurred involving emergency vehicles have been recorded in recent times. An EMS worker was killed in a southern Indiana ambulance crash in Clark County in December of 2010 where the driver of the ambulance failed to make the curve on Highway I-60. He left the road, striking a tree and killing the driver. The ambulance crashed within two miles of its destination. A few days later, a automobile crash killed a driver in Clarksville, Indiana when her vehicle was hit by an ambulance going 60 mph on an emergency run. These accidents are all to common and generally involve serious injuries due to the speed involved. http://www.wave3.com/story/13639530/ems-worker-dies-in-southern-indiana-ambulance-crash?redirected=true
Its noteworthy that the occupants of the emergency vehicles are at risk for serious injuries. During a period from 1999 to 2009, police cruisers in the State of Indiana were involved in 166 collisions, resulting in death of 2 troopers and injures to many other operators of vehicles involved. These collisions often occurred when officers were making traffic stops or working crash sites. The Indiana Police Data shows that in 2010, a similar number of police cruisers have been struck in the State of Indiana. this problem does not just occur in Indiana, but throughout the world. An Austrailian study notes that ambulance providers are at a 50% greater risk being involved in a crash while on duty then when driving a private automobile. (This study indicates there is fatality per 100 accidents. http://www.emergalert.com.au/Pages/Case%20Studies/index.html
It is noted that about 20 % of all firefighter deaths are not related to fire fighting, but occur due to vehicle-related incidents. According to the FBI statistics between 1995 and 2006, an average of 1 U.S. law enforcement officer was struck and killed each month by a passing vehicle. More law inforcement officers are killed this way than in shootings. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5516a3.htm
If you or a love one are have been involved in an accident involving an emergency vehicle and you would like to have a consultation with an experienced attorney, contact William W. Hurst.