Emergency vehicles are given special privileges and legal protections in Florida, specifically as outlined in F.S. 316.126. However, that does not mean that cities, municipalities or states (which generally own/ operate emergency vehicles as part of public service) are immune from liability when public servants are involved in collisions that result in injury. In fact, part of that statute specifically indicates, “This section does not diminish or enlarge any rules of evidence or liability in any case involving the operation of an emergency vehicle” and further, “does not relieve the driver of an emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway.”
Recently in a case out of West Virginia, the state supreme court there affirmed a trial court ruling in favor of a plaintiff, denying defendant a new trial in this personal injury lawsuit.
According to court records, a city police officer was assigned to work at a local high school. Shortly after arriving, he had to return home to attend to a homeowner emergency. After briefly meeting with a plumber, he left to return to work. While en route, he overheard a radio dispatch from another officer, in distress and pursuing a suspect on foot. The officer activated his lights and siren and traveled at a high rate of speed. Meanwhile, plaintiff pulled out from a parking lot into the same travel lane as the officer. The officer, traveling 65 mph, skidded more than 150 feet before rear-ending plaintiff. An investigating deputy sheriff testified that the skid marks and speed of the officer’s vehicle indicated plaintiff could not have seen the patrol car when he entered the roadway. Continue reading →