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Defects and Problems with Emergency Response Vehicles

Emergency vehicles are those vehicles that are designated and authorized to respond to an emergency. These vehicles are usually purchased, maintained and operated by designated agencies, often part of the government. However, emergency vehicles such as ambulances could be operated by charities, non-profit organizations and commercial companies. Emergency vehicles are permitted under the law to break conventional rules of the road in order to reach destinations in the fastest possible time. However, when emergency vehicles are poorly maintained or have manufacturing or design defects, the consequences can be devastating.

Types of Emergency Vehicles

There are many types of emergency vehicles that respond to everyday emergencies from traffic accidents and fires to medical issues:

  • Police and security: Police car, motorcycle, SWAT vehicle, police bicycle.
  • Fire and rescue: Fire trucks, rescue vehicles, paramedic vehicles, hazardous materials vehicle, lifeguard truck.
  • Medical rescue: Ambulances, air ambulance, organ transplant or blood supply vehicles.
  • Park ranger vehicles.
  • Public utility crews: Gas, electricity or water.
  • Tow trucks

Emergency Vehicle Safety Recalls

Like any other vehicle on the roadway, emergency vehicles are prone to safety issues. It is critical that emergency response vehicles are always in good working condition because someone's life could depend on it. For example, in August 2007, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation on a manufacturer of ambulances after becoming aware that a loss of power to the interior and exterior lights (including warning lights) and equipment in the patient are of ambulances, could occur. As a result of that NHTSA investigation, that ambulance manufacturer recalled 1,006 ambulances to correct a corrosion condition occurring on a 400-amp fuse due to exposure to calcium chloride elements.

Some of the other recent emergency response vehicle recalls include:

Ford ambulances: In September 2013, Ford recalled about 3,100 F-Series ambulances because the engines in these emergency response vehicles can stop unexpectedly. This recall involved F-350, F-450 and F-550 "Super Duty" ambulances with 6.7-liter diesel engines. These ambulances were from the 2011 and 2012 model years. In these vehicles, a faulty exhaust gas temperature sensor was causing the engines to stop and not start back up for at least an hour. There were no reports of any injuries or problems as a result of these defects.

Medtec ambulances: In 2011, Medtec recalled close to 1,000 model year 2009-2011 ambulances because of seat defects. In these vehicles if an attendant lands on the bench top with great force such as when the vehicle hits a bump in the road, the bench top screws may loosen and pull out increasing the risk of personal injury.

Ford Crown Victoria police cars: In September 2013, Ford recalled 355,000 Ford Crown Victorias, including the Police Interceptor version, for sudden steering loss. Severe corrosion could seize the lower intermediate shaft in the steering system of these vehicles causing the upper intermediate shaft to collapse, resulting in the separation of the steering column lower bearing.

GM police cruisers: In August 2012, General Motors recalled about 36,000 Chevy Impala police cruisers because of a suspension failure that could cause a driver to lose control. This recall covered 2008-2012 police models.

Ford Crown Victoria fires: In 2007, Ford recalled 3.6 million Crown Victoria police cruisers because of reports of fires caused by a defective cruise control switch. Crown Victoria police cruisers were also widely criticized for gas tanks that exploded in rear-end collisions. A number of police officers were killed nationwide in these crashes.

Potential Victims

When an emergency response vehicle malfunctions as the result of an inherent manufacturing or design defect, there are a number of people who could be affected. If an ambulance is defective, the patient who is being transported could suffer from injuries or other serious problems because he or she did not get the required medical care in time. The ambulance driver and attendants could also get hurt in the event of a crash. When a police cruiser goes out of control, other drivers, pedestrians or bicyclists on the roadway may be affected. The occupants of the police vehicle could also be seriously injured or killed as a result of an auto defect.

Compensation for Injured Victims

When injuries occur as the result of an emergency response vehicle defect, the manufacturer of the vehicle or the defective part that caused the injuries, can be held financially liable. Injured victims can seek compensation from the automaker by filing a product liability lawsuit. Victims in such cases can seek damages including medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, rehabilitation, pain and suffering and emotional distress.

If an employee is injured on the job while operating or riding in an emergency response vehicle, he or she can seek workers' compensation benefits from his or her employer in addition to filing a third-party claim against the maker of the defective product. If you have lost a loved one in such an accident, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party seeking compensation for damages including medical and funeral costs, lost future income and loss of love and companionship.

Protecting Your Rights

The experienced auto defect law firm of BISNAR CHASE has a long and successful track record protecting the rights of those who have been injured and those who have lost loved ones as a result of defective autos. We have the knowledge, skills and the resources it takes to conduct independent investigations. We have access to nationally renowned experts who can help bolster your auto defect case. To obtain a free, comprehensive and confidential consultation, please call us at (949) 203-3814. We are here to help you.

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