Are Private Ambulance Companies Endangering the Public?
24 hour driving shifts for ambulance drivers could lead to drowsy driving accidents.
Ambulances are supposed help people, not hurt them. So it came as a shock to Jeff Johnson when an ambulance slammed into his car, resulting in serious back injury.
Johnson had been parked along the median on the I-5, waiting for help for his broken-down car. He was out of the driving lanes and no doubt clearly visible to oncoming traffic. So why did the ambulance fail to stop or swerve to avoid him? Because the driver was falling asleep at the wheel.
Video obtained later clearly showed the ambulance driver struggling to stay awake in the minutes leading up to the accident. According to Johnson’s attorney, this video was like a “smoking gun” that pretty much guaranteed the driver and the ambulance company would be found liable for the accident. In fact, just two weeks after the discovery of the video, the ambulance company and Johnson agreed to settle his personal injury claim for an undisclosed amount.
According to California law, private ambulance companies can schedule drivers for 24 hour shifts. As the owner of this particular private ambulance company, Americare Mediservices of Garden Grove, explained, drivers can work for 24 hours without a sleep break, but unless they get a minimum of 5 hours of uninterrupted rest during the last 8 hours of a shift, that cannot work the next day.
A 24 hour shift for an ambulance driver seems decidedly unsafe, especially considering in that in other driving jobs, such as trucking, drivers are only allowed to work 14 hours a day, only 11 of which may be spent driving. No doubt the expectation behind the ambulance driver law is that these drivers will not actually be working all 24 hours, but merely on call. When this expectation is not met and drivers are forced to stay awake and alert for too many hours, dangerous situations can result. Just because 24 hour shifts are permitted by law does not mean that employers are relieved of their obligation to ensure their employees are fit to drive.
This case highlights the importance of pursuing all possible avenues for compensation in an auto accident injury case, which could include the driver, the auto manufacturer, the driver’s employer, or the entity responsible for maintaining road conditions and traffic signals. If you have been involved in an auto accident that was caused entirely or in part by another driver or entity, you may be able to secure compensation for your injuries. While most cases will not have the sort of amazing “smoking gun” evidence found here, your auto accident attorney will still have many avenues to explore in securing evidence to help support your case.