Crashes between passenger vehicles and emergency vehicles such as ambulances, police cars and fire trucks are occasionally in the news, particularly in Southern California. Most recently in Orange County on April 22, six people were injured when an ambulance collided with a van at the intersection of Euclid and Warner avenues. In that case, a passenger van that was heading east on Warner crashed into the ambulance that was southbound on Euclid with its lights and sirens on.
We also see those crashes between passenger vehicles and police cars or fire trucks. Sometimes, these official vehicles are responding to an emergency and other times, they are either on patrol or returning from responding to an emergency. Sometimes, they have lights and sirens on and other times, they don’t. So, when it comes to collisions between emergency vehicles and passenger cars, who is at fault? There are several things to consider before arriving at a determination.
What is the Law in California?
Under California law, motorists have a duty to yield the right-of-way to authorized vehicles such as police cars, fire trucks or ambulances, which are responding to emergencies and have their lights and sirens on. California Vehicle Code 21806 states: “Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle which is sounding a siren and which has at least one lighted lamp exhibiting red light that is visible…the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway, clear of any intersection, and thereupon shall stop and remain stopped until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.”
Questions to be Asked
However, there are different circumstances under which crashes with emergency vehicles occur in Southern California. For example, there are times when collisions occur during the course of police pursuits. Emergency vehicle operators also have a duty of care to other drivers in terms of driving as safely as possible. Police officers for example must use their discretion, in keeping with their respective department policies, regarding when or how to initiate or continue a pursuit. Emergency vehicle operators at no time should act in a way that endangers the public.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash involving an emergency vehicle, an experienced California car accident lawyer can ask those questions and conduct independent investigations that might help determine who was at fault for the collision. There are a number of questions to ask in collisions involving emergency vehicles. Did the vehicle have its lights and sirens on? Did the emergency vehicle’s driver take all possible safety measures to avoid the crash? At what speed were the vehicles traveling? Depending on the circumstances of the crash, injured victims may be able seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, rehabilitation, pain and suffering and emotional distress. The best personal injury law firms will always offer a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation to injured victims and their families.