Can Emergency Vehicles Be Held Liable in an Accident?

White cartoon ambulance

In Illinois, emergency vehicles are often immune from liability in the event of an accident, so filing injury claims can be complicated. When traveling at high speeds, emergency vehicles pose significant risks for injuries to both drivers and pedestrians.

Emergency Vehicle Accidents

Emergency vehicles such as ambulances, firetrucks and police cars create the potential for serious injuries if involved in an accident. When traveling at high speeds, the risks of serious injuries to emergency responders, other drivers and pedestrians is significant. Emergency responder fatality rates are almost five times higher than the national average for other car crash victims.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), ambulance accidents account for 2,600 injuries every year, and 60% of those accidents occur during emergency use. For injury victims, an average of 63% are occupants of a passenger vehicle, 21% are passengers in the ambulance, 12% are pedestrians, and 4% are ambulance drivers. Firetruck accidents are the second leading cause of on-the-job deaths for firefighters. Rollovers account for 66% of all fatal firetruck accidents, and 70% of accidents occur during emergency use. Police cars involved in high-speed chases cause 300 fatalities every year. Over 30% of crash fatalities seen by a car accident lawyer occur to people not involved in the pursuit.

Accident Liability

In Illinois, emergency vehicles are often immune from liability in the event of an accident. While emergency vehicle drivers are permitted to speed and run red lights, they must still exercise caution. By law, they have a responsibility to drive safely and avoid reckless behavior that may constitute negligence including:

  • Not turning on sirens and lights in an emergency situation
  • Tailgating other vehicles
  • Turning corners at excessive speeds
  • Speeding through intersections
  • Driving through spaces that are too narrow for safety

Since emergency vehicles are owned by the government, filing an injury claim through a car accident lawyer can be a complicated process. Motorists can be found liable for an accident if they fail to obey the laws related to emergency vehicles. When an emergency vehicle sounds its siren, other vehicles are required to get out the way so the emergency vehicle can pass. Motorists should pull over in a safe area as quickly as possible and wait until all emergency vehicles pass before re-entering the roadway. If a motorist simply slows down, fails to pull over, or otherwise impedes the emergency vehicle from passing, the motorist may be held liable if an accident occurs.