Emergency vehicle drivers have a certain duty of care

By: Darrell Castle

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Video Transcript

Can you sue the driver of an emergency vehicle if he injures you in an automobile accident?

Hi, I’m Darrell Castle. I’m an attorney licensed to practice law in the state of Tennessee and the answer to that question is “yes, but only under certain circumstances.” That emergency vehicle driver is required to announce that he is on an emergency call. He does that by using his lights on his siren, but if he fails to do that, then that takes him outside the parameters for which he works. He is allowed under most circumstances to exceed the speed limit, but only by a certain amount – he can’t be reckless about it.

He is also allowed to “drive assuredly” is what the statutes call it, but not aggressively. In other words, he can’t put the public unnecessarily at risk. Those are the things to consider when you’re facing a case against a driver of an emergency vehicle like a police car, ambulance or fire truck. So, it can be done but it’s often times difficult.

Still, even if the driver of that vehicle does announce himself by using his siren and lights, that doesn’t mean you automatically lose. It means you look at the totality of the circumstances.

Often times you see these cases and it will be a police high-speed pursuit like you see on TV – you know police watch TV also. But those can only be done under certain parameters. You cannot chase somebody in a police car and put the public at risk. An accident like that can often be catastrophic because the speeds are so high.

All of these things have to be considered. The answer to the question once again is yes, you can sue the drivers or the owners, like the municipalities, cities and states that own these emergency vehicles, but you have to look at the totality of the situation and these suits are very complicated so they are best left to people who have done it before and have experience doing it.