Even though people know they need to get out of the way when they hear a fire truck’s siren, sometimes events take on a life of their own. That is what happened a few days ago, when a fire truck struck two passenger cars at an intersection in Kansas City, Missouri.
The fire truck was responding to an emergency call when it approached the intersection of E. 39th Street and Benton Boulevard, traveling northbound. As it entered the intersection against the red light, two vehicles, a Mercury and a Mazda SUV, also entered the intersection against a green light from opposite directions.
Both vehicles were struck by the fire truck, and three people were taken to the hospital and treated for non-life threatening injuries. The accident occurred around 11:30a.m.
Who is at fault in a fire truck accident?
Because of the nature of the work that emergency responders do, laws are put in place to protect them from liability suits when the accident occurs while they are responding to an emergency call. The fire truck siren is a warning to get out of the way while it passes, and it is permitted to do whatever it takes to get to the emergency scene, which may mean driving at high speeds or running red lights.
Most of the time, when an accident occurs involving a fire truck or other emergency vehicle, it is because of a failure of the other vehicle to pull over in time. When the injured party files a lawsuit in such an accident, however, it will be against the government, not the driver. And the doctrine of sovereign immunity protects federal, state or local government entities from being held liable for damages from an accident.
The Missouri Tort Claims Act addresses the issue of sovereign immunity by allowing a lawsuit to go forward if the government employee has acted negligently while operating a motor vehicle within the course of their employment. To prove that an emergency driver was negligent, the injured party will have to prove that:
- The driver was fatigued
- The driver was driving while intoxicated or otherwise impaired
- The driver was driving recklessly or was wantonly disregarding road rules
Pursuing a personal injury claim against a government entity is not as straightforward as it might be for other car or truck accidents. It is important to first check on special notice requirements and the statute of limitations for filing a claim, and then seek help from an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you fight for your rights.