New Mexico Car Accidents with Emergency Vehicles: Who is Liable?

- Mark Caruso

When First Responders Fail to Use Reasonable Care, They Can be Liable for New Mexico Car Accidents Causing Personal Injuries

We all know that when we see an emergency vehicle on the roadway with its flashing lights on or sirens on, we need to yield to the right of way.  And we also know that emergency vehicles get certain exceptions from complying with the vehicle and traffic law.  If we get into a collision with an emergency vehicle, we may immediately feel like this is our fault and we are the cause of the accident.  After all, aren’t we supposed to always yield to the right of way of an emergency vehicle?

Not always.  In fact, sometimes emergency vehicles can be the sole cause of a New Mexico car accident.  If you or a loved one have been injured in a New Mexico car accident caused by an emergency vehicle, do not guess whether it was or was not your fault—call our experienced New Mexico car accident attorneys at the Caruso Law Offices, P.C. to learn how we can help you obtain compensation for your injuries by dialing (505) 883-5000.  Emergency responders must follow certain laws in able to use the exceptions to the vehicle and traffic law.  When they fail to do this, it can result in very serious car accidents and personal injuries to victims.

Emergency Vehicles Needs to Use Either Flashing Lights or a Siren to Get Us to Yield to Their Right of Way

We know that we are supposed to yield to emergency vehicles.  This is both common sense and under NM Stat. Section 66-7-332 which requires under subdivision (A) “[u]pon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle displaying flashing emergency lights or when the driver is giving audible signal by siren, exhaust whistle or bell, the driver of every other vehicle shall yield to the right of way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway clear of any intersection and shall stop and remain in that position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed except when otherwise directed by a police officer.”

The important part of this law is that the emergency vehicle must be using either its lights or sirens for us to yield.  If the emergency vehicle is not using either, then we do not have to legally yield.  However, sometimes emergency vehicles still proceed as if we all have to still yield to them without their lights or sirens on.  This can result in serious New Mexico car accident and whoever is at fault—including an emergency vehicle—will be liable for the victim’s injuries.

Emergency Vehicles Need BOTH a Flashing Light and Siren to Run Red Lights or Stop Signs and to Exceed the Speed Limit

Some of the the common traffic laws that we know emergency vehicles can violate are red lights or stop signs and the speed limit.  Indeed, NM Stat. 66-7-6 (B) permit “[t]he driver of an authorized emergency vehicle may: 2) proceed past a red or stop signal or stop sign, but only after slowing down as necessary for safe operation; 3) exceed the maximum speed limits so long as he does not endanger life or property . . . .”

Further, subdivision (C) requires that an authorized emergency vehicle may only violate these two sets of traffic laws only when it “sounds an audible signal by bell, siren or exhaust whistle as reasonably necessary when the vehicle is equipped with at least one lighted lamp displaying a red light visible . . . .”  Moreover, subdivision (d) provides that “[t]his section does not relieve the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons nor does it protect the driver from the consequences of his reckless disregard for the safety of others.”

There are several important points to note.  First, an emergency vehicle running a red light or stop sign must still slow down as necessary to go through the light safely.  Second, an emergency vehicle may only exceed the speed limit when the driver can still do so safely in a manner that does not endanger life or property such as losing control or not being able to stop or maneuver properly.

Third, an emergency vehicle MUST have both its lights and siren on in order to violate the traffic law.  This is to provide both an audible and visual cue to other drivers.  The failure of having both is dangerous and does not allow an emergency vehicle to break the law.  Fourth and finally, an emergency vehicle—even if both the lights and siren are on—still must act in a way that is not reckless.

If Your Have Been Injured By an Emergency Vehicle, CALL US TODAY!

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, call the experienced New Mexico car accident attorneys at the Caruso Law Offices, P.C. today by dialing (505) 883-5000 You can also contact us on our website through the easy to use and convenient Contact box located by clicking here.