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Can Ambulance Drivers Be Liable in Accidents?

Posted on in Car Accidents

Can Ambulance Drivers Be Liable in Accidents?Illinois law requires drivers to cede the right of way to emergency vehicles that are responding to an incident as part of their duty. Obstructing such vehicles or getting into an accident can be a criminal offense. However, there are some scenarios with emergency vehicles that have less clear answers:

  • Can the driver of an emergency vehicle be liable for personal injury if he or she was at fault for an accident?;
  • What legal protections do emergency vehicles have if they are not using their lights and sirens?; and
  • Are ambulance drivers with a private service treated the same as those that work for a local government?

The Illinois Supreme Court answered these questions earlier this decade and found that emergency vehicle drivers do not have the same standard of negligence as other drivers, as long as they are on the job.

Liability Protection

The driver of an emergency vehicle must show willful and wanton recklessness in causing an accident in order to be liable for personal injury compensation. This standard is more difficult to prove than with typical liability cases because the plaintiff would need to prove that the defendant:

  • Intended to cause a vehicle accident; or
  • Acted in a way that he or she knew increased the risk of an accident.

The Illinois Supreme Court cited two laws that provide liability protection to emergency vehicle drivers. The Local Government and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act states that local government employees driving emergency vehicles cannot be liable for negligence when responding to an emergency. The Emergency Medical Services Act extends the same protection to all emergency vehicles, whether publicly or privately operated.


Some Illinois courts have argued that this interpretation of tort immunity and the EMS Act is at odds with Illinois’ vehicle code, which states that emergency vehicle drivers must regard the safety of other drivers. The majority opinion of the Illinois Supreme Court denied that there was any contradiction between the laws, stating that the protection applied as long as the emergency vehicle driver was on duty. The court also clarified that the driver does not need to use the vehicle’s lights and sirens in order to be considered on duty. Thus, the protection applies when an ambulance driver is transporting a patient in a situation that is not a medical emergency.

Your Recourse 

It is difficult to receive personal injury compensation from an accident with an emergency vehicle, but you should talk to a lawyer before giving up on your case. A McHenry County personal injury attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can determine the likelihood that the emergency vehicle driver or another party can be held liable. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.



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