As we noted in "What is the Emergency Doctrine in a New York Car Accident Case?" the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law provides that there are some circumstances where drivers are held to a more relaxed standard of care than ordinary negligence.
This doctrine arises most often in the context of either EMS or police vehicles, who are responding to emergent situations. Of course, there are limitations on this doctrine. For example, a police officer cannot rely on the emergency doctrine to recover as a plaintiff; it can only be used as a shield against liability.
There is another exception: when a police vehicle is not actually responding to an emergent situation, such as where it was double-parked, as was the case in Williams v City of New York (240 AD2d 734 [2d Dept 1997]). In Williams, the plaintiff testified that defendant Rohe, the officer driving the vehicle, had double-parked the police vehicle in order to observe two suspects and that they were sitting at the accident location approximately 15 to 20 minutes before they were struck from behind by codefendants' minivan. As a result, the emergency doctrine was held inapplicable.