Determining liability can be complex when a car crash occurs and even more so when one of the vehicles involved is an ambulance. In Louisiana, the law applies a unique standard of care to emergency vehicle drivers. So what are the liability standards for ambulances and other emergency vehicle drivers involved in car accidents? The following lawsuit out of Lafayette, Louisiana, helps answer that question.
Gerald Janise was involved in a collision with William Gerard at an intersection in Lafayette, Louisiana. At the time of the accident, Gerard was driving an Acadian Ambulance Service vehicle. Janise filed a lawsuit against Gerard, Acadian Ambulance Service, and their insurer.
Janise claimed at a red light, Gerard did not obey the traffic signals or exercise proper caution and collided with Janise’s car. Gerard filed a summary judgment motion, arguing under La. R.S. 32:24, the driver of an emergency vehicle responding to an emergency can only be held liable if his conduct amounts to reckless disregard for others’ safety. The court denied Gerard’s summary judgment motion.
At trial, the jury heard from Janise, Gerard, and another individual who witnessed the accident and had seen the ambulance approaching. The jury dismissed Janise’s claims against Gerard, finding that Gerard had been responding to an emergency at the time of the accident, he sufficiently stopped or slowed down at the red light, he adequately used signals to warn motorists he was approaching, and he did not act with reckless disregard. Janise appealed.
On appeal, Janise argued the jury erred in finding Gerard was responding to an emergency call, so La. R.S. 32:24 did not apply. The appellate court pointed to language from Gerard’s testimony about Acadian Ambulance Service’s procedures for responding to the incident. Gerard explained he was not responsible for determining if a situation was an emergency; instead, the dispatch center instructs him how to respond. In the at-issue case, he activated the siren and lights after dispatch told him to. That was the standard procedure for responding to an emergency. Therefore, the appellate court held there was sufficient evidence to establish Gerard was responding to an emergency when the accident occurred.
Janise also argued the jury erred in finding Gerard went through a red light after only slowing down, as required for emergency vehicle drivers under La. R.S. 32:24(B)(2). Here, testimony from witnesses at the scene of the incident and Gerard himself supported the jury’s finding. The appellate court found the jury’s finding Gerard went through the red light after slowing down was reasonable.
Janise also argued the jury erred in not determining the percentage of negligence of all involved persons, as required under La. C.C. art. 2323. Based on the evidence presented to the jury, the appellate court found no error in the jury’s finding that Gerard did not act with reckless disregard for the safety of others. For example, witnesses testified that they could hear sirens and see lights from the ambulance as it was approaching. These sirens and lights were sufficient to warn other motorists, including Janise. Therefore, the jury did not err in not assigning any negligence to Gerard.
In Gerald Janise’s case, the appellate court upheld the jury’s findings, highlighting the sufficient evidence presented during the trial. The court recognized that Gerard’s actions were in line with Acadian Ambulance Service’s standard procedures for responding to emergencies, as directed by the dispatch center. Moreover, testimony from witnesses at the scene and Gerard himself supported the jury’s finding that he had properly approached the red light. The court also acknowledged that the jury did not err in determining that Gerard did not act with reckless disregard and assigned no negligence to him. This case serves as a reminder that when involved in a car wreck, whether with an emergency vehicle or not, seeking legal guidance from a skilled attorney is crucial to navigate the complex legal system and pursue any possible recovery.
Additional Sources: Gerald Janise v. Acadian Ambulance Service, Inc., et al.
Article Written By Berniard Law Firm
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