Traffic accidents involving emergency vehicles are on the rise, not only in Illinois but also in neighboring states, including Wisconsin. There, Department of Transportation data shows that these types of crashes have doubled between 2016 and 2021.
The numbers themselves are sobering enough to consider, but looking at the real-life impact of these numbers is heartbreaking. For example, in nearby Wisconsin, an ambulance driver was cited when he ran through a red light, killing the patient he was transporting and injuring those in the vehicle he collided with.
Illinois Legislation Integral to Personal Injury Lawsuits
State laws vary, and in Illinois, the most pertinent piece of legislation that is considered when an ambulance is involved in a traffic accident is the Illinois Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems Act. This law affords drivers of emergency vehicles immunity from personal injury liability as long as they are operating the vehicle in an active emergency (or non-emergency) situation and aren’t proven to have acted negligently or willfully. For this reason, filing a suit in this type of traffic accident is more complex than bringing a case against a personal vehicle driver. However, under certain circumstances, it can be successful. (If you or a loved one were in an accident while being transported by ambulance, see our article, “What Happens if Your Ambulance Crashes?”)
Determining the Potential Liability of Driver in a ‘Non-Emergency’
As you might expect, defining a “non-emergency” situation can be a bit murky and may depend on a judge’s interpretation of the case. This includes interpreting whether an ambulance driver’s actions were willful or wanton, knowingly putting others in danger (e.g., driving under the influence or texting while driving). For this reason, those involved in accidents with ambulances or other emergency vehicles in Illinois are encouraged to seek legal counsel to help them determine potential liability on a case-by-case basis.
In one well-known case in Chicago, a driver sued after being injured by an ambulance that ran a red light at Grand Avenue and Lake Shore Drive in 2016. The ambulance driver was en route to pick up a patient undergoing dialysis. The prevailing decision by the Illinois Supreme Court found that this did not constitute a “non-emergency” situation. Therefore, the driver was not considered immune from liability under the EMS Systems Act.
What to Do if You Are in an Accident with an Ambulance
In general, follow the actions you would take in the case of an accident with any other vehicle:
- pull aside to a safe location
- determine whether you or your passengers may have injuries
- dial 911 to report the crash
- document the details with photos or videos if it is safe to do so
- explain what happened to police on scene
- seek medical care if you need it
- report the accident to your insurance company
In addition, the Illinois State Police advise drivers to:
- “file a crash report if the crash caused a death, bodily injury, or more than $1,500 of property damage when all drivers are insured.”
- file a report with the Illinois State Police within ten days if police do not arrive on scene
- contact ISP District 15 at (630) 241-6800 If the collision took place on an Illinois Tollway
Do You Have a Legal Case Against an Ambulance Driver?
After an accident with an emergency vehicle, you should determine whether you would like to speak to an attorney to discuss whether you may have a legal case against the driver or ambulance company. An experienced attorney can walk you through your options and ensure you know various filing deadlines and other critical details.
The Cullotta Bravo Law Firm is Here to Help You Determine Your Legal Options
If you are the victim of an accident involving an emergency vehicle in Illinois, our skilled attorneys will work hard to investigate your case and help you determine whether to move forward with a personal injury lawsuit.
Call our firm today at 630-898-7800 or contact us online for more information.