A Marshall County Sheriff’s Deputy, who was responding to a non-emergency call, was seriously injured in an intersection collision.
The wreck happened at the intersection of U.S. Highway 641 and State Highway 58 (Mayfield Avenue). According to investigators, as the responding deputy turned left, an approaching AT&T bucket truck hit the squad car on the passenger side. Emergency responders rushed the deputy to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.
No charges are pending at this time.
Duty of Care in a Car Wreck Claim
All car wreck claims begin with a duty of care. This principle comes from a long line of court cases which are loosely based on the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) which Kentucky school children once had to memorize. The specific aspects of this duty vary in different situations.
Most noncommercial drivers have a duty of reasonable care. Contrary to popular myth, these responsibilities don’t just apply to driving.
Before they even think about sliding behind the wheel, drivers must be physically, medically, emotionally, and otherwise fit to operate a motor vehicle. Then, they must visually inspect their vehicles for safety issues. Drivers must also immediately take care of low tire pressure and other warning lights.
Finally, when they are on the road, noncommercial motorists must drive defensively and avoid accidents when possible.
Uber drivers and other commercial operators usually have a duty of utmost care. This responsibility is higher on every level.
For starters, the law usually requires commercial operators to see doctors frequently. Unless these doctors give these operators clean bills of health, they are arguably unfit to transport passengers. Furthermore, the pre-departure safety inspection must be more like a state inspection. A quick walk-around is probably insufficient.
Truck driver Safety Measurement System reports sometimes come into play here. Normally, if a driver gets a fix-it ticket and quickly corrects the problem, that mechanical issue doesn’t show up on their driving records. But the SMS database draws on law enforcement records. So, a Lexington personal injury attorney gets a clearer picture of truck maintenance history. More on this issue below.
When commercial operators get behind the wheel, they must take additional steps to avoid accidents. Following distance is a good example of the difference. Most noncommercial drivers must observe the two-second rule. Truck following distance is usually a minimum of four seconds.
Now, we get to emergency responder duty. When they are responding to emergency calls in emergency mode (lights flashing and/or siren blaring), responders can ignore many of the rules of the road. But this right is not unlimited. For example, most fire departments require trucks to pause before they go through red lights, even if they are in emergency mode.
When they are not in emergency mode, emergency responders typically have a duty of reasonable care.
Third Party Liability
In the above accident, it’s hard to determine fault. The truck driver clearly had a duty of utmost care. But if the deputy wasn’t in emergency mode, he probably had no right to go through the intersection.
Either way, a third party is probably responsible for damages in this case. The respondeat superior rule applies to both public and private employers. These employers are financially responsible for damages if their employees cause car wrecks during the scope of their employment.
Both drivers were clearly employees. Truck drivers are usually employees for negligence purposes even if they are owner-operators or other non-employees for tax purposes. Local law enforcement officers, whether they are paid or volunteer, are city, county, or state employees.
Furthermore, both drivers were acting in the scope of employment. Generally, any activity which benefits the employer in any way is within the scope of employment. For example, when truckers drive empty vehicles which bear the employer’s logo, the free advertising benefits the employer.
Compensation in a vehicle collision claim usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. If the police officer, trucker, or other driver recklessly disregarded the safety of other people, additional punitive damages might be available as well.
Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We routinely handle matters in Fayette County and nearby jurisdictions. #goodelawyers