Car accidents are a common occurrence in New York. Less common, though, are accidents with emergency vehicles, such as an ambulance, police car, or fire truck. If you’ve been in a car accident with an emergency vehicle, your right to sue a government entity that is responsible for the vehicle may be limited. Much depends on the circumstances. You may still recover no-fault PIP benefits from your insurance, though.
Circumstances of the Emergency Vehicle Accident Matter
Much like accidents involving only passenger cars, a number of factors cause car accidents with emergency vehicles. Speeding, driving aggressively, a driver’s failure to yield, and more can all lead to an accident. But emergency vehicles may have to ‘break the law’ in order to arrive at an emergency scene as quickly as possible.
Emergency vehicle drivers are given leeway to exceed the speed limit, pass through red lights, and make other maneuvers that are illegal for other drivers. But that doesn’t mean emergency vehicle drivers are allowed to drive recklessly and without regard for the safety of others.
The law provides some immunity from liability for emergency drivers, but that immunity may be limited in certain cases, such as when the emergency driver was acting with complete disregard for safety and caused a wreck.
What options do I have to collect damages after a car accident with an emergency vehicle in New York?
While New York law protects the government from liability in some cases, in certain circumstances the government may not be immune from a lawsuit. If an emergency vehicle driver was driving with its lights and siren on and was in an accident related to its high speed, the emergency vehicle driver may not be liable for damages.
But if that emergency vehicle driver was driving recklessly – e.g., not looking for other vehicles when passing through an intersection, etc. – then the emergency vehicle driver may in fact be liable. Each case is different and may benefit from consultation with an attorney familiar with government immunity laws and filing tort claims against the government.
Generally, you must prove that the emergency vehicle driver was acting recklessly by not using common sense and discretion to avoid an accident when traveling to an emergency scene. It’s a matter of balancing getting to the emergency quickly and preserving safety of others, and these cases can be difficult to prove, so seek legal counsel.
Time Limits for Filing a Personal Injury Claim Against the Government
If you would like to file a personal injury claim against New York City or the state of New York, you must file a notice of claim with the state within 90 days of the accident. If you do not file the notice of claim within the required time frame, you may be unable to recover damages.
After filing a notice of claim, at least 30 days must elapse before you can file a lawsuit. As an additional note, filing a notice of claim is not the same thing as filing a lawsuit. The government may, within 30 days, request a preliminary hearing so it can start investigating your claim. You have a year and a half from the date of the accident to file your lawsuit, or two years if it is a wrongful death case.
Speak with an Attorney to File a Suit Against the Government
If you’ve been involved in an accident caused by a government emergency vehicle, you may have questions about how to recover compensation for your injuries. At Gacovino, Lake & Associates, P.C. our attorneys know what it takes to file a claim against the government. If you need legal help, let us work with you to pursue the damages to which you’re entitled. You can reach us today at 800-550-0000.