In New York, sometimes the rules of the road don’t apply. Under certain circumstances, drivers of police, fire and emergency medical service vehicles are permitted to disregard the traffic laws that ordinary drivers are required to follow. It is called a “qualified exemption” and its purpose is to afford operators of emergency vehicles the freedom to perform their important civic duties unimpeded by the rules of the road.
These rules, as well as the exceptions to them, are carefully set forth in the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law statute. Specifically, §1104 outlines the important Four Categories of Privileges that a driver of an emergency vehicle may exercise when involved in an authorized emergency operation with their siren and lights on. Generally, they may:
- Stop, stand or park where necessary
- Ignore turning restrictions
- Run red lights
But with privilege comes responsibility. Operators of emergency vehicles nevertheless have a duty to operate their vehicles with due regard for the safety of others and may be liable for any injuries caused by reckless disregard for another’s safety. In the event that the operator of an emergency vehicle intentionally acts in a way that disregards a known or obvious risk that was so great as to make it highly probable that harm would follow, and does so with conscious indifference to the outcome (such as running a red light at a high-traffic intersection without an audible warning), they may be liable to the injured parties as a result of their actions.
An important distinction to make is that not all emergency vehicles are actively engaged in an emergency operation when on the road. For example, a police officer traveling in the normal stream of traffic, within the speed limit and in the proper lane, is likely not engaged in an emergency. If that officer causes an injury, they will be held to the lesser standard of ordinary negligence in a claim involving their conduct.
The complicated statutes and cases governing this area of traffic law make emergency vehicle crashes quite complicated. So if you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving an emergency vehicle, contact The Pryor Law Firm. Our firm has served the New York City area for two decades. During the past 25 years, we have achieved full and fair compensation for our clients in countless serious accident and wrongful death cases.
Firm founder Kenneth A. Pryor is a member of the prestigious Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Mr. Pryor is an experienced trial lawyer who teaches trial skills as an adjunct law school professor. Our firm can provide the knowledgeable and experienced legal representation you need.
The Pryor Law Firm maintains offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Nassau County. We handle personal injury cases exclusively on a contingency fee basis (meaning you pay no fee unless we recover compensation for you), and we can visit you or your loved one at home or at a hospital if travel is too difficult. To contact us for confidential advice following a serious injury or fatal accident, submit our online contact form or call 212-222-8444 in Manhattan, 718-773-1700 in Brooklyn or 516-741-8100 in Nassau County.