Being involved in a car accident with the emergency services should be no different than if the accident were caused by a member of the general public. Drivers of emergency service vehicles still owe a duty of care to the public and must take the same amount of care as other road users.
The claimant in this case, who was 22 years old at the time of the accident, was riding his moped whilst on the way home from a friend’s house late at night. He had been to watch England play a European Championship game and was travelling down the road when a fire engine turned right across his path. He collided with the steps at the back of the fire engine, which are made of cast iron.
Devastating injuries were suffered to the right leg, namely a spiral fracture, which nearly resulted in amputation. The paramedic who attended the scene said the injury was so severe that he was only able to recognise the leg because of the presence of a foot at the bottom of it. For several months after the accident the claimant had his leg encased in an external metal fixator, and for some time amputation below the knee was a possibility. There was also a fracture to the wrist on his dominant right side and doctors said he sustained a minor bleed to the brain.
The claimant suffered post traumatic amnesia and does not remember any of the collision or the events preceding it. Most evidence was obtained through witnesses and friends, who confirmed the fire engine, did have its sirens and blue lights on and the vehicle did indicate to turn right before undertaking the manoeuvre. This was confirmed through the black box in the vehicle, which records event data.
As a ceiling fixer and partition erector the claimant earned good money for a manual worker and was unable to return to his pre-accident occupation thus suffered heavy loss of earnings. The claimant’s father also had to take absence from work of two weeks to help him, and his mother has had to give him daily assistance. They also had to pay to have the bathroom altered so that the claimant could have proper access to the shower because of his mobility problems.
Liability was denied by the defendants because they alleged the claimant had been drinking alcohol before the accident and was over the legal drink drive limit. There was no evidence supporting this though as the claimant was not breathalysed and blood samples proved inconclusive. The case went to contested trial at court where liability was agreed on a 51% – 49% basis in favour of the claimant because Bott and Co argued that the fire service still have a duty of care, even if they are attending an emergency.
The claimant received a six figure settlement which was agreed during the trial.