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Title: Hit by an ambulance!

Date: 24 July 2013

Question

An ambulance ran through a red light on a busy crossroads junction cutting straight across me and causing me to swerve and come off my bike. Luckily I was only slightly hurt but my bike needs a lot of repairs. The ambulance crew admitted that the accident was their fault but said that they are entitled to run through red lights. I wasn’t going fast and because I heard the ambulance I was looking for it but did not see it until it was too late. Will I be criticised?

RG, London

Answer

There have been similar cases heard in the Court of Appeal. Each case turns on its own specific facts. It is interesting that the ambulance crew admitted liability at the scene. Independent witness evidence as to the admission would be helpful in this regard although the admission would not necessarily be binding in your compensation claim.

Emergency vehicles are entitled to drive through lights if they are responding to an emergency pursuant to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 reg 36(1)(b). Although the ambulance was entitled to cross the red light the driver was under a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that the path was clear.

A driver (in this case you) has a duty to take reasonable steps to avoid a collision with any vehicle that crosses a red light signal. The Highway Code obliges drivers to look and listen for emergency vehicles and make room for them to pass (but in doing so not endanger other road users). You state that you listened and looked but did not see the ambulance but this is hard to picture on a cross roads as presumably the ambulance was there to be seen (and heard by your own version of events). I would need to see the police report and witness evidence but in most similar cases there has been shared blame. Who accepts the majority of the blame will depend on the specifics but I think you will be looking at a significant reduction to your damages – I can see a judge saying that if you were unsure as to the ambulance’s precise location you should have pulled over to the side to satisfy yourself it was safe to proceed.

If you were already established in the junction and the ambulance proceeded anyway then you should succeed in establishing primary liability for the accident. The evidence needs to be carefully scrutinised but this looks like one where blame will be split – the difficult thing to do on the evidence before me is to give you a likely percentage split.

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