Fire engine – who is liable in the event of an accident on an emergency route??

Vehicles on an emergency drive are equipped with special rights in road traffic. The legal regulation is found in§35 abs.1 road traffic regulations and exempts, among other things, fire engines from the regulations of the stvo, if it is urgently necessary for the fulfillment of the sovereign tasks. fire department operations to perform tasks of defensive fire protection are regulated in the fire department law (fire protection law, feuerschutzgesetz). The question remains: fire truck accident: who is liable in the event of a road accident?

  • truck accident: legal basis for the liability issue
  • 1.1.When is it allowed to violate the stvo?
  • 1.2.right of way: special right of way for fire trucks

Fire truck accident: legal basis for the liability issue

In principle, the authority (fire department, municipality) on whose behalf the vehicle is on the road is liable (§ 839 BGB, liability for breach of duty).

fire trucks accident (© s-motive.Adobe.Com) this applies if the ride was recognizable as an emergency ride (§ 38 stvo): the blue flashing light in conjunction with the martins horn are the visible and audible signals that the vehicle is on the road". To save human lives or avert serious damage to health, . ". In spite of this freedom, guaranteed by the law, the danger of negligent road traffic is virulent, in the case of fire trucks involved in an accident, the public attention is particularly given.

If it turns out that the emergency driver caused the accident by gross negligence or intentionally, the authorities have the right to recourse against the driver (§ 34 GG). In the event of a legal dispute, a detailed examination of the actual facts takes place. This includes checking the safety of the accident site as well as the circumstances under which the fire-fighting vehicle, the truck or the ambulance collided.

Clearly, the protection of the accident site, the care of possible injured persons has priority. But for a subsequent investigation, possibly by the district court, photos of the car, lane for the police are important. They serve as proof that the emergency services have behaved correctly. Especially at night, in poor visibility conditions, in fog in the morning, etc. Are the recordings and their quality of particular importance?.

When may the stvo be violated?

If the law allows an exception to the provisions of the Highway Code, it does not mean that the driver at the wheel has a "free pass" he is not released from his duty of care.

This special right only applies and is only permitted in the course of the emergency response:

  • Driving against the prescribed direction of travel and on footpaths
  • Exceeding the prescribed speed limit
  • Disregarding a traffic light that has been switched to red
  • Parking and stopping in prohibited areas.

These violations do not constitute a misdemeanor or traffic offense, there is no penalty, even if other motorists feel endangered. However, they are only permissible if it appears necessary for the fulfillment of the sovereign tasks. For example, the emergency vehicle may only drive against the one-way street if it is certain that no other route is available. As a rule, the driver of the vehicle has to behave "in accordance with traffic law if the urgency of the situation allows it.

Right of way: special right to drive to the scene of an emergency

§ 38 stvo regulates the right of way for emergency vehicles. This means that every emergency vehicle on the road has to give way without delay (topic: emergency lane on the freeway).

Applies§ 38 stvo also on the journey from the apartment to the equipment house?

An accident with a firefighter who races to the fire station in his private car because of an alarm does not fall under the exception paragraph of the road traffic regulations. This journey is not a "fulfilment of sovereign tasks". The man has to reckon with a procedure because of bodily injury or property damage.

Is it allowed to continue the journey to the scene of an accident??

Depending on the damage caused, if there is no total loss, but only metal damage, the journey can be continued. It is in the case of the interest to determine (§ 142 stgb) must be taken into account. In addition to this function of securing evidence, the securing of the accident site, the roadway, must be ensured as far as necessary.

The case is different if persons have been injured. Only when medical care has been provided and the injured have been taken to hospital, if necessary, may the journey be continued.

In any case, it is an individual decision whether the journey can continue. Behind this is the consideration of whether the fire or rescue operation is to be prioritized over the presence at the scene of the accident. again§142 stgb comes into play (statement). This decision represents a gratuity in many respects. This can very quickly lead to the accusation of failure to render assistance (§323c stgb). In this case, the defendant has to expect a penalty of several years. Even if placed on probation, continued career as a firefighter is at great risk.

Which liability rules are applied in the case of an emergency vehicle??

paragraphs (© vege / fotolia.Com) the principle of "free driving at any price and around the clock" is not applicable in every case, even if the car of the fire department is on the road with martins horn and blue light. The road traffic regulations hardly give anything on the subject of liability.

The conflict of objectives between the sovereign execution of tasks and general traffic safety must be evaluated and resolved in each individual case. When studying the judgments (incl. appeal process), it can be seen that the current trend is toward citizen liability.

A misconception is that the martin horn and blue light override all traffic regulations. The most important rules of behavior towards the emergency vehicle are:

  • Priority must be given to the firefighter
  • If possible, the vehicle must have a clear path, even against the prescribed direction of travel
  • It may not be overtaken with active martinshorn and blue light.

The exercise of special rights is allowed for firefighters only if the public safety is not endangered.

When is the possibility of joint liability given??

There are precedent decisions for these cases. in any case, there is joint liability if only one signaling device (signal horn or blue light) was used (see OLG Dusseldorf, judgement of 10.01.2017, az. I-1 U 46/16).

If both signal heads are in use, this does not mean the general cancellation of the traffic regulations. If the driver with the emergency vehicle runs a red light without making sure that the other participants recognize his right of way, joint liability may be given in the event of an accident. the interpretation of these two precedents leads to the conclusion that the simultaneous use of the martin horn and the blue light follows a legal provision and, if used in accordance with the purpose, results in exemption from liability.

Is there a difference between fire departments in terms of liability??

If in the legal framework fire department is spoken of, then this includes all organizations whose task it is to extinguish fires, to save people, animals and property in case of fire (defensive fire protection). Regardless of whether it is a professional fire department, a volunteer fire department or a company fire department, the liability claim is always directed against the organization, e.g. the fire department. The municipality.

The official liability claim and the prerequisites are regulated in§ 830 BGB. It is necessary to check whether the liability privilege (§ 680 BGB) can be applied (management without order). In this case, claims can only be made if there is intent or gross negligence.

The courts distinguish whether the liability claim is directed against the carrier of a voluntary fire department or against an organization with professional firefighters. In the former case, the special nature of the honorary office is taken into account and the fact that the main focus is on the persons or legal assets to be protected.

Legal example: collision with fire engine – who is liable??

This example is taken from the documentation of the judgment of the Higher Regional Court of Hamm, dated 18 December 2008.07.2017, az. 9 U 34 / 17 taken. The case involved an accident with an emergency vehicle that entered an intersection with a red light.

Warning triangle (© Stefan

Warning triangle (© stefan korber-stock.Adobe.Com) despite martin’s horn and blue light, the driver of a van that was running "green had, the emergency vehicle. The collision occurred. The Higher Regional Court of Hamm concluded that two-thirds of the liability of the driver of the private vehicle was to be awarded because of gross negligence and carelessness:

  • The driver saw the blue light from a distance of several hundred meters
  • She also noticed that the vehicles in the parallel lanes were stopped even though the traffic light was green
  • From this, the driver could deduce that the perceived emergency vehicle would claim its right of way

However, she did not draw the right conclusions and drove towards and into the intersection at an undiminished speed.

On the other hand, the driver of the emergency vehicle steered it too "briskly", according to the court. With this, it has counter§ 35 abs. 8 stvo violations. According to this, special rights may only be claimed if public safety and order are not endangered. The court concluded that the driver of the emergency vehicle was one-third at fault for the accident.

example: truck driver rams fire truck – car crashes into rescue squad

For causing the deaths of two firefighters, a truck driver has been sentenced to two years in prison in an appeals trial before the potsdam district court. The court did not suspend the punishment for probation. In their plea, the prosecution had demanded a prison sentence of three years and three months, the defense had pleaded for probation.

"The defendant as a result of negligence caused a terrible accident in which two people died", said judge ulrike phieler-morbach. Among other things, he is guilty of negligent homicide, negligent bodily injury and negligent endangerment of traffic. The court is convinced that the 58-year-old fell asleep at the wheel.

Thus, the court reduced the two and a half year sentence imposed in the first verdict by the amtsgericht brandenburg/havel. According to the expert opinion, the driver of the truck was in the early morning of September 5, 2017. september 2017 on the a2 near lehnin (potsdam-mittelmark) his semitrailer truck crashed into an accident scene at excessive speed, causing the death of the two rescuers.

According to witnesses, the scene of the accident was bright as day in the early morning of 5. September 2017 was illuminated as bright as day. The fatigue had been announced by signs that the 58-year-old should have taken seriously and stopped, the prosecutor had emphasized at the first trial. Firefighters had secured the scene of an accident on the A2 when the truck, weighing several tons, hit first a police car and then a fire truck without braking. The vehicle overturned and buried the two men underneath it.

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Christina Cherry
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