We note there are WC insurance carriers and TPAs who sometimes use MediCars or other similar methods to move injured workers to get to and from care when they are too disabled to drive themselves and/or their families can’t assist. We feel you should note this ruling about healthcare providers offering non-emergency transportation of patients. In general, the EMS Act generally provides immunity to non-emergency transportation of patients. However, the EMS immunity provisions will not immunize transporters from third-party claims of negligence in the ordinary operation of a motor vehicle.
As folks in the healthcare field are (or should be) aware, the EMS Act protects paramedics and emergency medical technicians from claims of mere negligence. The policy of this Act is, of course, to encourage response by trained personnel to emergency situations without fear of liability for every bad occurrence. However, what happens when the immunity provisions of the Act come in direct conflict with the Illinois Vehicle Code (better known as the “Rules of the Road”)?
In Wilkins v. Williams, (2012 WL 955308 Ill.App. 1 Dist.) our First District Appellate Court was confronted with this question in a case of first impression. In this case, Defendant Williams was an ambulance driver transporting a nursing home patient in a non-emergency setting. Defendant was driving the ambulance at regular speeds without the use of emergency sirens.
Defendant collided with Plaintiff’s vehicle causing Plaintiff to sustain serious injuries. Plaintiff sued Williams as well as her employer, Superior Ambulance Services, Inc. for negligence. Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, which was granted by the Circuit Court of Cook County. On review, the Circuit Court’s ruling was overturned by the First District Court of Appeals.
While the First District held the immunity provision of the EMS Act did, in fact, apply to an ambulance driver’s non-emergency transport of a patient, the Court tempered the immunity provision of the Act by holding it was not applicable to instances involving the negligent operation of a motor vehicle. The Court began its analysis by examining the language of the EMS Act and noted the Act was silent in instances of negligence toward third parties based upon the ordinary operation of a motor vehicle. In order to address this ambiguity, the Court turned to the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-205, 907 (West 2006).
The Illinois Vehicle Code specifically addresses the duty of emergency vehicle operators toward other motorists. Section 11–205 provides when responding to an emergency call, the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle may disregard certain rules of the road and proceed past a red light or stop sign, or exceed the maximum speed limit. However, “the provisions do not relieve the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle from the duty of driving with due regard for the safety of all persons.” (625 ILCS 5/11–205(e) (West 2006).
The Court’s majority concluded the aforementioned provision of the Illinois Vehicle Code supersedes the immunity provision of the EMS Act. Simply put, the “Rules of the Road” trump the immunity protections afforded by the EMS Act in situations of pure motor vehicle negligence.
We appreciate your thoughts and comments. This article was researched and written by Joseph D’Amato, J.D. Joseph can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.