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Navigating Emergency Vehicle Crashes in California: Your Options

Police cruisers, ambulances, fire trucks, and other emergency service vehicles often need to operate very quickly to respond to a developing situation. Motorists in our state have a responsibility to yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle that has its lights on (California Vehicle Code § 21806). You may be wondering: What happens if you get into a crash with an emergency vehicle? The short answer is that you are not automatically at fault—but the claims process can be extremely complicated. Here, our Stockton auto accident attorney provides an overview of your rights and your options if you are involved in a collision with an emergency vehicle in California. 

The Steps to Take After a Crash WIth an Emergency Vehicle in California

Unfortunately, emergency vehicle accidents are an issue in California and throughout the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cites research showing that emergency vehicles are involved in motor vehicle collisions at a higher rate than the national average. If you were involved in a crash with any type of emergency—from a cop car to an ambulance—you need to know how to protect your rights. Here are four steps to take: 

  1. Stop Your Vehicle and Report the Crash: If you are involved in a crash in California, you should stop your vehicle, remain at the scene and report the accident. The emergency vehicle may or may not remain at the scene as well depending on the nature of the emergency and the severity of the collision. Either way, you need to follow your obligations under the law. Report the collision to law enforcement right away. 
  2. Seek Immediate Medical Care for Any Injuries: All motor vehicle accident injuries require immediate medical care. In some cases, the adrenaline rush from the crash can actually mask the pain. There are common injuries—from whiplash to concussions—that may not be obvious after a crash. Always get yourself checked out by a doctor. If you do not have medical records, you will not have the ability to bring a successful personal injury case. 
  3. Document the Emergency Vehicle Collision: Every crash should be comprehensively documented. California is an at-fault car accident state—and emergency vehicle collisions are not an exception to the rule. Take photos of your vehicle, the emergency vehicle, and the surrounding area. Look for skid marks, traffic signs, or anything else that might help explain what happened. Key details—such as whether or not the emergency vehicle had its lights on—will help determine liability. 
  4. Consult With a Stockton Motor Vehicle Crash Lawyer: Emergency vehicle accidents are especially complex. You need skilled, professional legal advocacy. Before you provide a statement to any insurance company—including your own insurer—you should consult with a top-tier Stockton motor vehicle accident attorney. Your lawyer will protect your rights and help you navigate the intricacies of the claims process. 

What to Know About Your Rights Under the California Tort Claims Act (CTCA)

With very limited exceptions, emergency vehicles are operated by government entities. State and local government agencies have “sovereign immunity” in California. Simply put, this means that they cannot be sued. However, there are special laws in place that allow people to sue government entities in certain circumstances. The California Tort Claims Act (CTCA) allows injured victims to bring a personal injury claim against a state or local government agency. An emergency vehicle crash claim likely falls under the CTCA. Here is an overview of the key points you should know: 

  • Public Entities Can Be Sued: The CTCA allows for lawsuits against public entities, which include state, county, and city governments, and their departments. If  an emergency vehicle operated by a government entity is involved in your crash, you may have a CTCA claim. 
  • Specific Notice Requirements: Unusually strict deadlines apply in these cases. Before filing a personal injury lawsuit under the CTCA, you must first file a claim with the appropriate government office. This claim must be filed within six months of the incident. 
  • Limited Liability in Some Cases: The CTCA recognizes that certain situations limit the liability of government entities. For example, if the emergency vehicle was engaged in an emergency operation and the operator used reasonable care, the entity might not be liable. On the other hand, if the operator of the emergency vehicle was negligent in any manner, the responsible government agency may be legally liable for the resulting crash. 

Every Emergency Vehicle Crash Requires a Thorough Investigation

Every crash involving an emergency vehicle requires a thorough, detail-focused investigation. This process is crucial to uncover the precise cause of the accident and determine liability. Remember, unique traffic regulations apply to emergency vehicles. They are presumed to have the right-of-way when their lights are flashing and their sirens are on. The collisions should always be investigated by an experienced Stockton, CA motor vehicle accident attorney. 

We Help Injured Victims Fight for the Maximum Financial Compensation

Hurt in an emergency vehicle crash in California? It is imperative that you are able to secure the maximum available financial compensation. Unfortunately, many people struggle to get the full and proper compensation that they deserve in these cases. At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, we are devoted to helping victims and families obtain every penny that they deserve under the law. You may be entitled to recover compensatory damages for: 

  • Vehicle repairs or vehicle replacement; 
  • Your emergency medical care needs; 
  • Hospital bills and other medical costs; 
  • Ongoing/long-term medical needs; 
  • Lost wages and diminished earnings; 
  • Pain and suffering; 
  • Disability or disfigurement; and
  • Wrongful death. 

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Top-Tier Stockton Personal Injury Lawyer Today

At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton auto accident attorneys are solutions-focused advocates for injured victims. If you or your family member was hurt in a crash involving an emergency vehicle, we are more than ready to help you explore every available option for compensation. Contact us today to arrange your no cost, no obligation initial consultation. With a law office in Stockton, we serve communities throughout the region, including in Lodi, Galt, and Sacramento.