Understanding Liability in a Collision with an Emergency Vehicle in NYC, Explained by Our Queens Car Accident Lawyer
New York and NYC depend on our police, ambulance, fire-fighters, paramedics, and other emergency services. Here at Cohen and Cohen Law Group, P.C., we salute all of our first responders who protect our rights, lives, and promote our safety. We rely on these professionals to help keep us safe or to render us help in our time of need. While many of these professionals heroically do that, sometimes they may fall short. One way that they may fall short and cause us significant harm is on our roadways. Innocent people could be seriously injured or wrongfully killed in a collision with an emergency vehicle in NYC when a first responder is negligent.
But our Queens car accident lawyer knows that this area of law is very tricky and these cases can be difficult. This is tricky because we are taught at a young age that a driver must slow down and stop for any emergency vehicle that we see, including police cars, ambulance, firetrucks, or other first responder vehicle. However, now as motorists we know that an emergency vehicle could come out of anywhere and present a hazard. We know that it is not always so easy to see an emergency vehicle, especially when it is traveling very fast. And our Queens car accident lawyers know that, unfortunately, some first responders fail to follow the law. When this happens, they can needlessly expose innocent people to serious harm.
Examples How First Responders Expose Us to Harm
There are many was that a first responder could expose us to harm which could cause serious or fatal injuries. It is obvious that the very nature of a first responder is to get somewhere fast. This means that many first responders have to drive above the speed limit and may speed through stop signs, yellow lights, yield signs, and other traffic control devices. Some first responders will also take shortcuts which could also be dangerous, including jump curbs or going on the wrong side of the road.
But the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law allows emergency vehicles to do this, as well as first responders to engage in other conduct that most people are prohibited from doing such as using a cell phone—right?
Not necessarily! This is why could expose us to unnecessary harm.
First responders such as police, ambulances, firefighters, and other first responders must use emergency lights and sirens. When we see and hear the lights and sirens, it signals to us that we need to make way and yield to the right of way for emergency vehicles. But our Queens car accident lawyers know this does not always happen and it can result in a serious collision with an emergency vehicle in NYC.
New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Regarding Emergency Vehicles
Specifically, New York Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1144 deals with breaking traffic, or when an emergency vehicle can cut through traffic and break certain vehicle and traffic laws relating to traffic control devices and speeding. But in order to break traffic, an emergency vehicle must have both 1) emergency lights, and 2) emergency sirens activated. Having only one or the other is NOT enough.
The reason is to have a visual confirmation with the sirens, as well as an audible confirmation. This can help during the daytime when it is very sunny to hear an impending emergency vehicle. Or this can help someone hear an emergency vehicle around a city block or in heavy traffic. At night, the lights are more helpful and allow residents in Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Long Island to see an impending vehicle.
What Happens if an Emergency Vehicle Does Not Have Both On?
If a collision with an emergency vehicle in NYC is caused when both the lights and sirens are not on, it can result in liability for the motorist and the department or municipality. This means that the police office and the department and municipality could be liable to a victim for his or her injuries. This is because a municipality is responsible for the actions of its employees under the doctrine of respondeat superior.
How Do I Prove a Collision with an Emergency Vehicle in NYC?
Our Queens car accident lawyers know that this is a tricky type of case because you will need to prove that the first responder did not have both his lights or sirens on. Sometimes this is easy because some modern police vehicles have a computer like a black box (an ECM), which will say whether or not both were activated.
But that is not always the case. Most times you will need to rely on your own testimony and observations and it will come to a credibility issues between you and the first responder. That can be very difficult because most jurors inherently trust a police officer, firefighter, or ambulance team.
This does not mean, however, that it is insurmountable. Other motorists that witnessed the accident could be great witnesses. Other times the use of cameras, surveillance videos, or other people filming could be used to prove your case.
Do I Need to Prove my Collision with an Emergency Vehicle in NYC Beyond a Responsible Doubt?
No, under New York law you will only need to demonstrate prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence. Unlike beyond a reasonable doubt which is the standard for criminal cases and requires almost a 100% confidence level, the standard of a preponderance of the evidence is just proving that it is more likely than not that you are correct (51%).
Ask our Queens Car Accident Lawyers for Help
If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a collision with an emergency vehicle in NYC, ask our experienced Queens car accident lawyers for help with your case. We offer FREE consultations and only get paid after we collect a settlement or court award for you. Call Cohen and Cohen Law Group, P.C. to schedule your FREE consultation by dialing 800-247-8164 or use our convenient and easy-to-use contact us box available here to get started today with our law firm.