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On-Duty Paramedics and Crashes. How Long Do You Have to Sue?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016By Richard Alexander

Have you ever wondered what happens when an emergency vehicle causes a crash? Crashes between emergency vehicles and other cars are not uncommon. After all, the nature of emergency work depends on timely responses to horrific accidents. But even in emergency circumstances, drivers of emergency vehicles, such as paramedics, cannot drive without regard to their surroundings or other vehicles.

Consider, for example, a recent case out of Ventura County. A paramedic supervisor working at an ambulance station heard a radio call relating to a fall victim who was unconscious. The supervisor decided to respond to the call to provide support and supervise the emergency medical technicians on the scene.

While driving to the accident site in an employer-provided pickup truck, the paramedic supervisor failed to stop at a red light. He crashed into another vehicle who was proceeding through a green light. That driver brought a lawsuit about 17 months later.

The issue in the case was the applicable deadline for filing a lawsuit. This is known as the “statute of limitations.”

In an attempt to avoid liability, the paramedic supervisor argued that a short, one-year period applied under the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. He argued that he was acting in the scope of his employment when the crash occurred.

The injured driver, on the other hand, argued that the general, two-year period applicable to negligence cases applied and that his lawsuit was easily inside that time frame.

The appellate court rejected the notion that the shorter time period applied, allowing the injured driver to move forward with his case. That limitations period only applied in professional negligence actions. At the time the crash occurred, the paramedic supervisor was not rendering any professional services. Instead, the accident occurred from his “failure to exercise reasonable care in the operation of a motor vehicle.” 

The entire role of emergency medical technicians is to help people who have been hurt, so it’s particularly offensive when their acts harm others. It is important, in these cases, to work with an attorney with deep experience in major California lawsuits, one who fully understands all of the nuances of California law.

If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident involving an emergency response vehicle, contact the team at Alexander Law Group, LLP at 888.777.1776 for a free case consultation today

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