Ambulance Crashes and the Right of Way

Patients may be victims of medical errors due to the healthcare provider’s negligence during treatment or surgery. This is, however, not the only risk that patients are exposed to. Some patients are injured before they even get to the hospital through an ambulance crash.

Ambulance crashes, unlike what many people have come to believe, are common and can lead to a worsening of a patient’s condition and in extreme cases death.  In an ambulance crash, the patient is not the only one at risk of sustaining injuries. Everyone traveling in the ambulance can become a casualty if a crash occurs.

According to a report, an estimated 6,500 ambulance crashes are recorded annually, with fatalities recorded in 35 percent of these accidents. Often, ambulance drivers are under pressure to get to the hospital and may have to weave through busy intersections to make it in time. When an ambulance driver takes too many risks, they endanger their lives, the passengers’ lives, as well as other road users.

The Right of Way for Ambulances

The law gives the right of way to emergency response vehicles when they sound their siren or display flashing lights. The alarm or siren is an indication that someone’s life is in danger and the response team needs to get to a destination as fast as possible.

Because every second counts when responding to an emergency, other road users are therefore required to yield once they hear the sirens or see flashing lights. Many times, police vehicles, ambulances, and firetrucks will use both sirens and lights to alert road users that there is an emergency.

Causes of Ambulance Crashes

Although ambulances, like other emergency response vehicles, have the right of way, they can still be involved in accidents. Drivers are required to get the injured victims to the hospital as soon as possible, yet, they are required to carry out such duties with the utmost sense of responsibility and as safely as they can. When ambulance drivers become reckless in carrying out their duties, the likelihood of an accident increases. 

Some of the causes of ambulance accidents include:

#1. Excessive Speeding

While there is pressure on the driver to transport injured persons to a medical facility in a timely manner, it does not justify excessive speeding. When ambulance drivers go way above the recommended speed limit, the risk of being involved in an accident increases.

#2. Failure to Yield

Like other emergency response units, ambulance drivers have the right of way during an emergency. Other road users are therefore required to yield once they hear the sound of the siren. However, some motorists do not yield to the right of way, and this can result in an accident.

#3. Mechanical Failure

Ambulance operators must ensure that the vehicles go through routine maintenance. This helps to detect any mechanical faults on time. If the ambulance is not adequately maintained, mechanical failure can occur while the car is in motion leading to a crash.

#4. Distracted Driving

Many drivers fall victim to distracted driving, and ambulance drivers are not an exception. While behind the wheel, the driver’s eyes and mind should be entirely focused on the road, as any form of distraction can lead to a crash.

#5. Driver Fatigue

Most ambulance drivers are always on the go and can get exhausted as a result. When a driver is tired, it lowers their ability to make good decisions while on the road. 

Some drivers may nod off due to tiredness. It is therefore crucial for drivers who are tired to stay away from the wheel.

#6. Not Activating Emergency Sirens

Emergency sirens help alert other road users to yield to the right of way. When the driver fails to activate the sirens, motorists may not yield, allowing more room for accidents.

#7. Recklessly Driving through an Intersection

Many accidents happen at intersections. Drivers who do not exercise caution at intersections, especially when they hear sirens, may run the risk of getting involved in accidents.

#8. Lack of Training

Some ambulance drivers are not adequately trained, and this lack of training surfaces in their driving decisions. It is vital to ensure that the operators are well-trained. This will go a long way to minimize the number of ambulance accidents.

Common Injuries in an Ambulance Crash

Victims of ambulance crashes can suffer severe injuries and, in horrific cases, death. Some common injuries in an ambulance crash include:

  • Whiplash
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal injuries
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Bone fractures
  • Paralysis
  • Internal injuries

Ambulance Accident Liability

Although ambulance drivers are allowed to run a red light, which other motorists are not permitted to do, the law also requires them to operate in a way that makes the road safe for other road users. Ambulance drivers are trained to take a minimal amount of risk while driving when they are able.

Some ambulance drivers may take unnecessary risks, resulting in accidents leading to severe injuries and even death. If it is discovered that the driver’s negligence resulted in an accident, they will be held liable for the outcome. In an ambulance accident, the victim may be a medical emergency patient who has previously been involved in an accident which makes them even more vulnerable. 

Where this is the case, it may be difficult to determine who to hold liable for the injuries sustained and how much the liability should be shared. Therefore, victims of ambulance accidents need to consult a competent accident attorney. The attorney will advise on the best line of action to follow after carrying out a thorough investigation.

Wrapping Up

An ambulance accident can be very traumatic for the victims. A good number of the victims of such accidents become permanently impaired. Although ambulances have the right of way, it is very critical that their drivers exercise utmost caution while behind the wheel to prevent accidents. 

Accident victims often wonder if there is any need to involve a lawyer. It will be challenging to get your due payment from the insurance company without the help of an experienced accident lawyer.