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Wilkins v. Williams: Illinois Supreme Court to Hear Case on Liability in Emergency Vehicle Accidents

Written by Ankin Law Office

What happens if an emergency vehicle gets into an accident? Can the ambulance driver or public entity be held liable for negligent operation of an ambulance or emergency vehicle? These are the questions that the Illinois Supreme Court attempted to answer in Harris v. Thompson, and at the end of its September term, the Court also approved the petition of a case that poses a follow up question: what happens if an ambulance is negligently operated by a private company’s employee?

In Harris, the Illinois Supreme Court held that there was no conflict between the Vehicle Code, which holds that the driver of an emergency vehicle has a duty to drive with “due regard for the safety of all persons” and the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, which protects public entities and employees from liability for injuries caused by “the negligent operation of a motor vehicle or firefighting or rescue equipment, when responding to an emergency call, including transportation of a person to a medical facility.”  Accordingly, although the driver might technically be liable for the negligent operation of an emergency vehicle, any lawsuit against the public employee was barred under the Tort Immunity Act.

Now the Court is presented with a similar situation in Wilkins v. Williams – an ambulance transporting a patient on a non-emergency run collided with another vehicle and injured the driver – except in Wilkins, the ambulance was privately owned. Accordingly, the Tort Immunity Act does not apply, but the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Act does.

Under the EMS Act, no “person, agency or governmental body certified, licensed or authorized pursuant to this Act” who “provides emergency or non-emergency medical services” can be “civilly liable as a result of their acts or omissions in providing such services unless such acts or omissions . . . constitute willful and wanton misconduct.” 210 ILCS 50/3.150(a).

Therefore, when the Illinois Supreme Court hears the case it must decide, first, does the EMS Act extend to the non-emergency transportation of patients, and second, does the EMS Act extend to injuries sustained by third parties who were not directly treated by EMS workers?

At Ankin Law Offices, our Illinois motor vehicle accident attorneys have the skill and experience necessary to sift through the complicated legal issues involved in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit arising out of an accident between an automobile and an emergency vehicle.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed as a result of an accident with an ambulance, police car or other emergency vehicle, contact one of our Chicago motor vehicle accident attorneys to schedule a free consultation to discuss how we can help you pursue a claim for your emergency vehicle accident.