If you are waiting at a controlled intersection and proceed when the lights are green, but are hit by another vehicle speeding through a red light, you would normally expect that you would have the right to sue the driver for negligence and claim compensation for the damage to your vehicle and any injuries you received as a result of the crash. Personal injury claims are based on evidence that one of the drivers was to blame. Surely, running a red light is good enough evidence, especially if there were eye witnesses, or even better, a red light camera which recorded the crash event?
But what if you were hit by an emergency vehicle, like a police car, ambulance or fire engine? They may have had sirens blazing and emergency lights flashing and were obviously on an emergency mission, yet you didn’t notice them approaching at speed and didn’t hear the siren, or didn’t realize it was coming towards the intersection you were patiently waiting at. Are emergency vehicles allowed to run a red light, and if not can you sue them if they were proceeding in an emergency?
Tennessee law as it applies to emergency vehicles
Tennessee statute 55-8-108 permits emergency vehicles to proceed through a red light as it does provide other “traffic privileges.” However, the statute does not allow this privilege to take precedence against prudence. In other words, drivers of emergency vehicles must proceed with caution if they are about to drive through an intersection showing a red light.
This obviously leaves a lot of gray area in which every instance of a crash involving an emergency vehicle in circumstances must be carefully investigated to determine the amount of fault involved. In the example given above, for example, why didn’t the driver not hear the sirens or see the vehicle speeding towards the intersection? Were they using the pause at the lights to answer a phone call, or check their emails? Was there anything the emergency vehicle driver could have done to prevent the accident from happening?
Comparative negligence in Tennessee
If a court determines that all the blame for an accident lies with the emergency vehicle driver, then the plaintiff in a personal injury case against the agency should obtain 100% of the amount claimed. However, in many cases, the situation is more complicated and a portion of the blame for the accident may be found to lie with both parties.
According to the state’s modified comparative negligence law, the claimant in a personal injury case must be less than 50% at fault or risks being denied any compensation at all. For any percentage fault determined between 0 and 50%, the total amount claimed is then reduced by the percentage of fault. For example, if in the example given above, if the victim of the accident had made a claim of $10,000 but was found to be 25% at fault (e.g. because it was determined that he/she should have noticed the emergency signals), then the total amount then end up with $7,500.
You will need an experienced car accident attorney if claiming compensation after an accident with an emergency vehicle
Forget trying to claim compensation from an emergency services agency all by yourself. The amount of gray area in these sorts of cases tends to make it easier to reject your claim and leave you with substantial bills to pay. You need an experienced attorney who understands the law inside out and will work to get you the compensation you deserve.
Contact a car accident attorney at Keith Williams Law Group in Nashville for aggressive representation in the event of an unexpected injury caused by negligent driving by an emergency vehicle driver. The office can be contacted at (615) 313-3999.