Firefighters provide a critical public service, and in many cases are willing to put their lives on the line to help those in need. When there is a fire, firefighters need to be able to get to the scene as quickly as possible. The law recognizes this, and in Texas drivers must yield the right of way to firetrucks that are in route to emergency situations.
Unfortunately, despite fire truck drivers’ best intentions, accidents happen. At intersections, on crowded roads and in other traffic scenarios, simple mistakes and split-second decisions can result in severe collisions that leave unsuspecting drivers and passengers with life-altering injuries. While fire trucks with their lights on have the right of way, this does not mean that fire truck drivers can put others at risk, and in non-emergency situations fire trucks are generally subject to the same rules as ordinary vehicles.
As we mentioned above, the rules regarding liability in fire truck accidents are different in emergency and non-emergency situations. If the fire truck was responding to an emergency with its lights on and sirens blaring, you may have a more difficult (but not impossible) time presenting a claim for just compensation. Since fire trucks are entitled to the right of way in emergency situations, to prove your claim it will be necessary to establish that the fire truck hit you despite the fact that you yielded to the fire truck’s progress.
When responding to a 911 call, the rush of adrenaline can lead to impaired judgment. Fire truck drivers also have a lot going on—they need to navigate, communicate with crew members, watch for traffic from all angles and get ready for what is coming next. In addition, many 911 calls come in the early morning hours and late at night. Fatigue can play a role in fire truck accidents (both before and after fires) as well.
When investigating a fire truck accident, it is critical to determine what the truck driver was doing at the time of the crash. Was his or her full attention devoted to the road? Or, was he or she communicating with dispatch? Was the fire truck driver observing the traffic safety laws that applied under the circumstances? Or, was he or she driving recklessly in light of the traffic and road conditions at hand?
Since fire departments are government entities, fire truck accident cases will generally be governed by the Texas Tort Claims Act (the “Act”). This is a law that imposes special rules for injury claims against the government. There are strict timelines and procedural requirements under the Act, and in order to protect your rights it is critical that you speak with a qualified attorney as soon as possible.
To find out if you are entitled to compensation for injuries sustained in a fire truck accident, contact the Houston, TX law offices of Morrow & Sheppard LLP. For a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced attorney, call (800) 489-2216 or tell us your story online today.
Don’t let your rights be jeopardized.