Kentucky Emergency Vehicle Accidents LawyerEmergency Vehicles May Get Into Accidents While They’re Coming to the Rescue
Kentucky police officers, paramedics and firefighters often need to get where they’re going in a hurry. This increased speed, coupled with traffic along the way, presents the danger of accidents which put first responders, occupants of other vehicles and pedestrians at risk.
The public perception of the dangers faced by first responders is shaped by our view of them from news accounts and the popular media. If asked, you might think a firefighter faces the greatest risk of losing his or her life on the job while fighting a fire. The reality is that they are more likely to die in a vehicle accident than during the course of a firefighting operation, according to a 2014 report by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA).
The same is true for law enforcement officers. Most of us probably think their greatest risk is in physical altercations or gun battles with suspects. The fact is, vehicle-related fatalities were the leading cause of death to law enforcement officers in the United States for 11 of the 12 prior years.
The incidents that get the media’s attention, such as mass shootings or multi-alarm fires, don’t reflect the greater, but more mundane, actual threats faced by first responders. FEMA points out that these public servants, like the rest of us, are at greater risk of injury or death while traveling from place to place than when they actually get there.
Firefighter fatality statistics show that 75% of deaths occurring while on duty are due to cardiac-related causes or vehicle accidents (which account for 25% of all fire service fatalities). From 2002 to 2011, 39% of law enforcement officer fatalities were vehicle-related, while gunshot fatalities accounted for 36% of fatalities during the same period.
It’s not just the first responders who are at risk. Police departments are under increased scrutiny because of the injuries and deaths caused by high-speed chases. More than 5,000 people have been killed in police car chases since 1979, according to USA Today. Thousands suffer injuries as officers pursue drivers at high speeds and in dangerous situations, often started by minor infractions. Examples cited by the newspaper include these fatalities that occurred in 2015:
- A 25-year-old New Jersey man was killed by a driver who was being pursued for running a red light.
- A 63-year-old Indianapolis grandmother died in an accident caused by a driver being chased by police for shoplifting.
- A 60-year-old was killed near Washington, D.C., by a driver being chased because his headlights were off.
The Justice Department has called police pursuits “the most dangerous of all ordinary police activities.” “Far more police vehicle chases occur each year than police shootings,” the department said.
Police chases have resulted in the deaths of as nearly as many people as were killed in justifiable police shootings, based on government statistics, which are widely believed to undercount fatal shootings. But while deadly police shootings increasingly have become publicized and polarize the communities where they occur, potentially lethal police chases haven’t generated the same level of attention or concern.
If you or a loved one in Kentucky has suffered injuries or was killed as a first responder involved in a vehicle accident, or as a bystander harmed by an accident involving a first responder, call the Julie Butcher Law Office at 859-233-3641 or fill out our contact form to talk about your case, applicable laws and your legal options.