Ambulance driver appeals negligence in motor vehicle crash

Date: Jul 07, 2015

An ambulance driver has appealed against a court decision that ruled her negligent after her vehicle collided with a truck.

The woman was in her ambulance with an offsider – an assistant – while a man was driving the truck alone. The accident resulted in serious injuries to the people involved.

On the day of the incident in July 2008, the ambulance was responding to an emergency call and was driving east on a suburban Sydney road. Due to traffic build-up, the ambulance driver opted to cross over from the northern side to the southern side of the road.

The truck driver had shifted into the right-turning lane so that he could turn right. While performing the manoeuvre, he was struck by the ambulance on the right side of his vehicle.

During the original case, there could have been four possible negligence outcomes: both drivers were at fault, the truck driver alone was negligent, the ambulance driver alone was negligent or neither were to blame.

One of the key pieces of evidence was whether or not the ambulance had its lights and sirens on at the time of the accident. This was a contested issue, with the truck driver claiming only the ambulance's lights were on, while the ambulance driver said both the lights and sirens were in use.

The magistrate ultimately sided with the truck driver, which meant the ambulance driver alone was found negligent.

Appealing the decision

The ambulance driver appealed the decision on several grounds, including that the magistrate had erred in her ruling that the siren had not been sounding when the evidence suggested otherwise.

While the offsider was unable to remember the events in the immediate lead-up to the accident, the ambulance driver and another witness claimed the siren was on.

Another reason for the appeal was the magistrate failing to judge adequately on the matters at hand. Specifically, the appellants wished to know how the magistrate had come to find the ambulance driver negligent, but not the truck driver. The magistrate was also accused of focusing too strongly on the Road Rules rather than elements of the tort of negligence.

Nevertheless, Justice Richard Button rejected all grounds of the appeal. Firstly, he said the magistrate was entitled to accept the truck driver's evidence regarding the siren.

Regarding the Road Rules argument, he admitted this seemed to have merit. However, after reviewing the original court transcripts, he noted that the litigants had supported a thorough examination of the Road Rules at the time, making it a difficult issue to contend now.

He therefore rejected all grounds of the appeal and the ambulance driver's organisation will pay costs.

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