Rear-ended by a Fire Truck

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Q: In the rear, my car was struck by a fire truck.  It was responding to an emergency.  The truck struck my car 30 seconds after the traffic signal controlling our lane changed from red to green, and while the truck was decelerating.

I had been in the far left lane with the truck immediately behind me.  In order to get out of the truck’s path, I attempted to move my vehicle into the center lane, but was unable to complete the lane change because of traffic ahead of me.  The fire truck then struck my car on the rear driver’s side.

The fireman has been telling it otherwise.  He says that his truck was in the center lane and my car was cutting across from the left lane to the right lane – but was unable to completely enter the right lane before his truck struck my car.

A: As a preliminary point, the City often will argue that its driver was engaged in conduct that is exempted from the rules of the road by Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1104(b).  That statute permits an authorized emergency driver to (1) stop, stand or park irrespective of many other provisions of law, (2) proceed past a steady red signal, a flashing red signal or a stop sign, although only after slowing down as may be necessary for safe operation, (3) exceed the maximum speed limits so long as this does not endanger life or property and (4) disregard regulations governing directions of movement or turning in specified directions.

Unfortunately for the City, the statute does not exempt the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle from the prohibition against following too closely behind you.  Your attorney will argue that the driver of the fire truck was not engaged in the specific conduct exempted from the rules of the road by Section 1104(b), and, thus, the principles of ordinary negligence apply.

Specifically, a driver of a vehicle approaching your vehicle from the rear is required to maintain a reasonably safe distance and rate of speed under the prevailing conditions to avoid colliding with your vehicle.  A rear-end collision establishes a prima facie case of negligence on the part of the operator of the rear vehicle, thereby requiring that operator to rebut the inference of negligence by providing a non-negligent explanation for the collision.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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