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Impact of the Florida Move Over Law on First Responder Accident Claims


November 21, 2022

Despite the warning provided by lights and sirens when responding to a fire, crime or other emergency, first responders sometimes cause car accidents when traveling at a high rate of speed.  Based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, more people die in high-speed police chases each year than floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and lightning combined.  Ambulances alone account for approximately 6,5000 collisions per year according to the NHTSA.  Approximately 35 percent of these crashes cause death or injury to at least one person. If you have been injured in a collision with an emergency vehicle, an experienced New York attorney can evaluate your situation and explain your legal rights.

While first responders can be liable for causing collision-related deaths and injuries, this kind of case can be complicated because special rules and exceptions to civil liability generally apply to first responders operating emergency vehicles.  Collisions involving emergency responders tend to result in high-speed and high-impact crashes, which can lead to catastrophic injuries.  Injury victims can benefit from the expertise of an experienced Florida car accident attorney with the ability to undertake an investigation and obtain expert witness testimony where appropriate.

Florida’s “Move Over Law” like similar laws in other states was enacted to protect vulnerable workers who must operate in and around moving traffic.  The law directs motorists to take specific steps when approaching a stopped law enforcement vehicle, fire truck, or ambulance when the stopped vehicle has activated warning lights.  (The law also covers tow trucks, sanitation trucks, road construction and maintenance vehicles, wreckers, and utility service vehicles.)  Drivers approaching a covered vehicle must either: (1) move over or (2) if on a two-lane road, slow to 20 mph below the posted speed limit.  When traveling on road with a speed limit of 20 mph or below, the approaching driver must reduce his or her speed to 5 mph.

The law serves an important public safety benefit, but the statute does not insulate government entities that employ first responders from liability for injuries or deaths even when a motorist fails to fully comply with the move over statute.  

Florida has a “pure” comparative negligence law, so a driver who is injured or killed by an emergency responder might still be entitled to compensation despite failing to fully comply with the move over law, depending on the specific facts and circumstances at hand.  This form of comparative negligence means that injury victim may have a recovery of economic and non-economic damages reduced in proportion to their percentage of fault.  Even if a court determines the injury victim bears the majority of fault, the plaintiff can still recover unless the plaintiff bears 100 percent of the fault for causing his or her own injuries. 

Pursuing a claim for financial compensation against a public entity in Florida, such as a first responder, presents special challenges.  Police officers, fire fighters, paramedics and EMTs that are employed by a city, county or the State of Florida have limited governmental immunity.  The doctrine of “sovereign immunity” provides a means to prevent government entities from being overwhelmed with lawsuits. 

While exceptions exist that permit an injury victim or the estate of someone who dies in a car accident to pursue a claim against a government entity, special deadlines and procedural requirements might be observed to pursue such a claim when they are present depending on state and federal law.  While the statute of limitations for car accident lawsuits in Florida is 4 years in most cases with some exceptions, for example, parties must initiate a lawsuit for car accident injuries against a government entity within 3 years.  Parties pursuing a claim against the government also must provide written notice containing details about themselves, the accident, along with other information.

Because of these special protections and rules that apply when pursuing a car accident injury claim against a governmental entity in Florida, injury victims should seek legal advice from an experienced personal injury lawyer. If your car accident claim is handled by Montlick Injury Attorneys, we will fight hard to recover the most amount of money allowable under Florida law. If we are unable to obtain a settlement amount the is fair and just, we will be ready to take your case to trial. A favorable ruling could include a substantial jury award. Our firm has recovered billions of dollars for our clients. 

Legal Help for Car Accident Victims 

Did you or a loved one sustain injuries or suffer the loss of a loved one in an accident caused by another's negligence?  Protect your legal rights by calling Montlick Injury Attorneys Nationwide, 24/7, at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). Our Car Accident Injury Lawyers are here to listen, understand your situation, and provide you with a free consultation. Our trial attorneys have recovered billions of dollars for our personal injury clients through negotiated settlements, litigation/lawsuits, settlement of lawsuits, jury verdicts, mediation, and arbitration awards.

Please visit our Montlick Injury Attorneys reviews to see what our clients have to say about our commitment to exceptional service.

No matter where you are located, our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us nationwide 24 hours day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333), or simply dial #WIN (#946) from your mobile phone. You can also visit us online at Montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or Free 24-hour live chat.

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Sources:

https://www.weather.gov/hazstat/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17613900/

https://www.ems.gov/pdf/GroundAmbulanceCrashesPresentation.pdf

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Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.