Determining Liability After a Car Wreck in Georgia: Yielding to Emergency Vehicles – OCGA 40-6-74
Posted by Wetherington Law Firm | Articles
What Can Happen If Someone Doesn’t Yield to an Emergency Vehicle
What do you do when you hear a siren and see those flashing lights? Do you stop where you are? Do you look for a parking spot? How long do you wait before continuing onward? Today we’ll talk about the proper way to respond to an approaching emergency vehicle and how these rules can help determine liability after an accident.
Remember, the rules of the road are safety rules, which means anyone who causes harm by breaking them is automatically liable for the damages. This concept is called negligence per se, and it makes proving liability much simpler than when there are no broken rules.
Normally, when one person injures another, the person who inflicted the injury is only liable if they’re found to have acted in a way a reasonable person wouldn’t. Reasonableness can be subjective, but breaking safety rules is always unreasonable from a legal perspective.
Last week, we talked about how negligence per se applies to statute 40-6-72, which has to do with how drivers respond to stop signs and yield signs. This week, we’ll take a look at 40-6-74, which deals with yielding to emergency vehicles.
Recognizing Emergency Vehicles
Statute 40-6-74 only applies to authorized emergency vehicles that announce themselves correctly. We went over the standards for how emergency vehicles are supposed to do this in our article on police recklessness and statute 40-6-6, but let’s review.
In order to be exempt from certain rules of the road and entitled to constant right of way, emergency vehicles must alert nearby drivers to their presence with flashing red or blue lights and an audible siren.
Only police, paramedics, firefighters, and other emergency response workers are allowed to use lights and sirens for this purpose, so if a private citizen uses fake emergency signals to get ahead in traffic, not only would that person be breaking the law, but other drivers would not be required to yield.
Responding to Emergency Vehicles
When an emergency vehicle approaches with its lights and sirens on, all other drivers are required to pull over as far to the right as possible.
(a) Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle or a vehicle belonging to a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency making use of an audible signal and visual signals meeting the requirements of Code Section 40-6-6, the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right of way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway clear of any intersection and shall stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle or law enforcement vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer.
Yielding drivers should leave intersections clear and wait parallel to the curb, “double parked” if necessary, until the emergency vehicle has passed. In congested situations, it might be necessary for a police officer to direct traffic out of the way, in which case the officer’s instructions override all other rules.
Responsibilities of Emergency Vehicle Drivers
Although authorized emergency vehicles with their lights and sirens active have right of way over all other vehicles, that doesn’t give emergency drivers the right to behave recklessly.
(b) This Code section shall not operate to relieve the driver of any authorized emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway.
In other words, if someone refuses to get out of the way of an ambulance, and as a result, the ambulance doesn’t get to the hospital in time to save the patient on board, then the driver who wouldn’t yield could be liable for the patient’s death. The same goes if the ambulance gets into an accident while trying to get around the non-yielding driver to save the patient.
If, on the other hand, a driver is unable to move due to heavy traffic when an ambulance approaches, and the ambulance rams the trapped vehicle in the hope of getting through, liability for the damages would fall on the ambulance driver or company.
What Damages Can You Recover If Someone Doesn’t Yield to an Emergency Vehicle?
If you or a loved one has been in an accident, or received delayed emergency services, due to someone failing to yield to an emergency vehicle, that person is liable for the damages under the concept of negligence per se. The compensation you’ll be able to recover will come in the form of “special damages” and “general damages.”
Reimbursement for Monetary Losses Falls into the Category of “Special” Damages
If you’re exploring your options for compensation after an accident or other tragedy, it’s a safe bet you’re facing a daunting set of sudden expenses, from doctor’s bills to transportation to care for your dependents. At the same time, you probably have less money coming in to cover it all, due to lost time at work or even an inability to perform your old job at all. Special damages are intended to counteract these kinds of losses, protect your savings, and make sure you can afford whatever help or replacement possessions you might need. To claim special damages, you’ll need to provide documentation of the expenses you want covered and prove that these expenses were directly or proximately caused by the defendant’s negligence. We can walk you through this process. To learn more about how to prove direct or proximate cause, click here.
Compensation for Other Kinds of Losses Falls into the Category of “General” Damages
There’s probably no amount of money someone could pay you to get into an accident on purpose. That’s because so much of what gets lost in an accident can never be replaced at any price. Things like peace of mind, absence of pain, full use of your body, and the freedom to go where you want and do the things you love — these are the things survivors end up missing most. That’s the point of general damages: to acknowledge and help make up for some of those intangible losses that cannot be reimbursed. It’s especially important to have an excellent lawyer when pursuing general damages, because the value of what’s been lost is extremely subjective and often painful for plaintiffs to argue on their own behalf. When you work with the Wetherington Law Firm, we’ll make sure to explain your situation in terms judges and juries respect, to make sure you get the best settlement possible.
What If Someone Has Died Because of a Driver’s Failure to Yield?
The life of a loved one is at the top of the devastating list of things money can never buy back. Thankfully, the law does recognize the seriousness of this kind of loss. We’re honored to help surviving family members with wrongful death suits, but these cases have unique rules you’ll need to be familiar with. To learn more about the differences between personal injury and wrongful death suits, click here.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
A qualified, experienced attorney can make the difference between a settlement that doesn’t even cover a new car, and one that covers all your needs and sets you back on the road to your best life. Personal injury cases can be surprisingly complex, and car insurance companies are experts at exploiting loopholes and paying out as little as possible. To have your side heard fairly, you’ll need an expert in your corner too. The Wetherington Law Firm has seasoned professionals who’ve argued cases from both sides in the past, so we know all the ins and outs of the process. We’ll work with you to make everything as stress-free as possible, so you can stay focused on recovering while we make all the right moves for you.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
The Wetherington Law Firm works solely on contingency, which means the only payment we accept comes from the settlements we win for our clients. You don’t owe us a penny until and unless we win, and when all’s said and done, our average client walks away with significantly more than the average accident survivor representing themselves.
We believe no one should ever be forced out of court simply because their opponent has deeper pockets, and we’re passionate about making sure the law ultimately protects the most deserving, rather than the best funded.
To talk to one of our qualified lawyers about your case and your next steps, reach out by phone at 404-888-4444, or email us through the form on the right.
The Wetherington Law Firm Supports Clients Who Want to Change the World
If you were injured by a reckless emergency driver, there might be more to the story than your case alone. With your permission, we’ll be happy to investigate company or city policies and other factors that may link your accident to others like it. Many of our clients are concerned not just with covering their own losses but with protecting others from future tragedies, and we love working with people who share our passion for positive change. Even if it means a more drawn-out case with a smaller financial payoff at the end, we’ll help you dig up the roots of the problem if that’s what you want to do. To learn more about how we’ve helped our clients change the world for the better, call or email us today!