On February 4, 2013, Firehouse.com reported on a car accident that occurred in North Carolina involving an ambulance. The ambulance hit the side of a Dodge pickup truck, resulting in heavy damage to the ambulance and to the truck. The truck driver was not injured in the accident and the ambulance drivers suffered minor injuries that were not life threatening.
Our North Carolina personal injury attorneys are glad that no one suffered serious injury as a result of this crash. The accident, however, raises an important issue: what happens if ambulance drivers or police are involved in auto accidents? It is important that every driver be aware of the special legal rules that apply when dealing with public employees so they can understand their rights in the event of a wreck.
Special Rules for Auto Accidents with Public Employees
The accident reported on Firehouse.com occurred when an ambulance was traveling south on U.S. 17. A Dodge pickup truck entered the intersection across the four-lane road. The ambulance then hit the side of the truck, causing it to spin out until it finally ended up facing north in the southbound lane on U.S. 17.
A witness to the accident who spoke to Firehouse.com indicated that the accident was a bad one, and he provided information that seemed to indicate the truck driver was to blame. According to the witness, the ambulance had its emergency lights on and the truck driver, who had a green light, failed to yield to the ambulance.
The truck driver, however, indicates that when he entered the intersection he was unable to see the ambulance as a result of a car to the left. He indicated that he did not hear the ambulance, although the Police Sergeant responding affirmed that the ambulance had both its siren on and the emergency lights flashing.
If all accounts of the accident are true, then the truck driver is likely to blame for causing the wreck and the ambulance drivers were not at fault in the crash. The truck driver also didn’t suffer any injuries. In other incidents, however, drivers might not be so lucky.
There have been cases in the past where drivers were hurt as a result of police cars, ambulances or other vehicles driven in a negligent way, such as police officers speeding without having their sirens or lights on. When this type of action occurs and the public employees are responsible for negligent behavior that leads to an auto accident, there are many legal complications.
The big issue is that government agents who are acting within their official capacity or who are doing their jobs are generally granted immunity from civil lawsuits. Government agencies also enjoy limited immunity too. The immunity protections that exist make it much more difficult for an injured victim to file a lawsuit based on negligence.
The immunity protections, however, do not make it impossible to sue. In the event that the car accident was caused by the negligence of the public employee, then the case may fall into exceptions carved out for the limits on governmental immunity. To determine whether a case can be made against a public official or agency, therefore, the first step is determining how immunity rules apply. An experienced attorney should be consulted to advise you on the statutes providing exceptions to immunity and to make a legal assessment as to whether you can sue the public official or agency as a result of the wreck.
If you have been injured in a car accident, contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.
North Carolina Car Accidents & Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2, 2013, North Carolina Car Accident Lawyer Blog