Earlier this month, an emergency vehicle began heading southbound towards an intersection at Virginia Beach. Another car at the time was turning left going northbound when it was violently struck by the EMS vehicle. To be specific, the EMS vehicle was an SUV zone vehicle, not an ambulance. Zone vehicles are not used to transport patients, but are instead used by other paramedics or supervisors to assist at off-site emergencies. In this particular instance, the EMS zone vehicle was being driven by the Brigade Chief.
According to a report, one passenger and the driver sustained minor injuries. However, the third passenger was an 88-year-old woman who suffered serious injuries and later died at the hospital.
Police say the Brigade Chief was actually returning the car to the city garage and was not responding to any emergency. According to other reports, he has since been placed on administrative duties following the crash. The investigation is ongoing to determine the cause. As of now, police are not giving any indication as to which driver had the right of way in this emergency vehicle accident.
Accidents involving police cruisers, ambulances, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles are not uncommon. One study shows that at least 4,500 accidents occurred each year over a 20-year period. Another shows that 35 percent of accidents involving emergency vehicles resulted in an injury or death of at least one passenger. Over a 10-year period, more than 31,600 accidents involving firetrucks occurred, 49 percent of which resulted in at least one fatality. Lastly, there are roughly 300 deaths that result from a police car pursuit, 30 percent of which involve people who were not directly involved in the police car pursuit.
Most accidents involving emergency vehicles happen at intersections and driveways. These accidents are also expected to happen in poorly lit areas. Typically, emergency vehicles are traveling at higher speeds, given most are involved in urgent responses. As a result, these types of accidents result in serious injuries and death.
While emergency responders are brave and hold a very important job within our society, they are still obligated to respond to urgent situations in the most responsible and safest manner possible. In this situation, the Brigade Chief was not responding to an emergency and had no reason to speed or not pay attention to the road. It is possible this accident was simply a result of negligence.
Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot, L.L.P. is a personal injury law firm that fights for victims injured in car accidents in the Washington D.C., Fairfax, Virginia, and Greenbelt, Maryland areas.