It may not occur to everyone that drivers and passengers are not the only ones at risk of injury in car accidents. Unfortunately, the men and women who respond to these car accidents to provide assistance and investigate face a risk of injury as well. Every year, a significant number of first responders, law enforcement, tow truck drivers and others end up being struck by other cars while working the scene. When this happens, a car accident lawyer can help the parties sort through the possible legal claims.
State trooper injured in Tennessee
A Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper was working a car accident scene when a separate crash involving a tractor-trailer and two other vehicles occurred on the highway next to him. The impact of that separate collision resulted in one of the cars involved striking the trooper. As unfortunate as this type of accident is, it can often be avoided or at the very least, the risk can be reduced. This is not an isolated incident. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, in 2005 approximately 390 first responders were killed after being struck by traffic while responding to an accident scene.
Three ways to avoid these secondary accidents
As nearly every car accident lawyer is aware, no one expects to be struck while standing on the side of the road assisting in a current accident. It is likely assumed by these individuals that they are clearly visible by other drivers because of the multitude of vehicles and flashing lights. But the scene actually tends to have the opposite effect. Here are three ways we can all help to reduce the risk of injury to first responders:
- Obey “Move Over” Laws
- Don’t Rubberneck
- Be Extra Vigilant
Every state has its own version of a “Move Over” law on the books. In fact, you are likely to see signs on the major highways reminding you of this rule.
What are “Move Over” laws?
In July 2012, Hawaii became the final state in our country to enact a Move Over law. The purpose of these programs is to reduce the risk of injury to first responders and law enforcement and make it safe for them to do their jobs. The basic principle is that, when motorists see flashing lights on the side of the road, they need to slow down and move over into the next lane if it’s safe to do so. The further away traffic is, as it passes by the police, paramedics, fire crews, and tow truck drivers, the less likely they will be struck. All it takes is a few drivers making the move, for others to follow.
Arkansas’s “Move Over” Law
Like many states, Arkansas has enhanced its move over laws to protect more than just law enforcement, fire trucks, and ambulances. The law now requires drivers to move over for emergency vehicles, as well as any vehicles owned by the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department and its contractors. This would include utility vehicles, tow trucks, or authorized vehicles displaying, blue, red, amber, white, or green lights that are flashing, revolving or rotating. Arkansas drivers are expected to move to the farthest possible lane or position from the authorized vehicle. If that is not possible, the driver must reduce speed and exercise caution. The fine may be up to $500.00 and/or jail. The court may also order community service or suspend a person’s driver’s license up to six months.
Missouri’s “Move Over” Law
Missouri also expanded its “Move Over” law in 2012. Although the state’s law covering police and fire trucks has been in place for the past decade, the newly expanded law now includes emergency vehicles, such as ambulances and MoDOT Motorist Assist or Emergency Response vehicle operators. In Missouri, also have signs in place reminding drivers to slow down or change lanes when approaching emergency or maintenance vehicles located on the shoulder.
What to do if you are involved in a car accident
A common question posed to every car accident lawyer is what to do after a car accident. First, never leave the scene of the accident no matter how minor it may seem. If you do not stop your care, you could end up facing a criminal charge for hit and run. The first step is to call 911 to notify the police and to request an ambulance if anyone, including yourself, is injured. If the injuries are not too severe, you can also contact your insurance carrier while you are at the scene.
You should always call the police
Many people assume that if there were no injuries and the damage to the vehicles was minor, there is no need to notify the police. That is not a good idea. Regardless how minor everything seems to be, it is important to get the police involved so that a police report can be created. This record will be crucial in case you are sued or later decide that you need to file a lawsuit yourself. You never know, so it is good to have it just in case. In most situations, you will need the police report to make an insurance claim as well.
If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury concerns, contact us online or call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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