Ambulance drivers have a challenging job. They are expected to act as quickly as possible in responding to emergent circumstances while also trying not to injure any other individuals at the time.
Generally, drivers are held to a standard of ordinary negligence in determining whether they are legally liable for injuries following the accident. That is, the question for a jury or judge is whether the driver breached an ordinary standard of care. The Louisiana legislature has carved out an exception to these general principles for emergency vehicle drivers. In these cases, an injured individual may have to prove that the driver breached a higher standard of care. If certain conditions are met
La. R.S. §32:24 states:
A. The driver or rider of an authorized emergency vehicle, when responding to an emergency call, or when in the pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law, or when responding to, but not upon returning from, a fire alarm, may exercise the privileges set forth in this Section, but subject to the conditions herein stated.
B. The driver or rider of an authorized emergency vehicle may do any of the following:
(1) Park or stand, irrespective of the provisions of this Chapter.
(2) Proceed past a red or stop signal or stop sign, but only after slowing down or stopping as may be necessary for safe operation.
(3) Exceed the maximum speed limits so long as he does not endanger life or property.
(4) Disregard regulations governing the direction of movement or turning in specified directions.
C. The exceptions herein granted to an authorized emergency vehicle shall apply only when such vehicle or bicycle is making use of audible or visual signals, including the use of a peace officer cycle rider’s whistle, sufficient to warn motorists of their approach, except that a police vehicle need not be equipped with or display a red light visible from in front of the vehicle.
D. The foregoing provisions shall not relieve the driver or rider of an authorized vehicle from the duty to drive or ride with due regard for the safety of all persons, nor shall such provisions protect the driver or rider from the consequences of his reckless disregard for the safety of others.
Acts 1962, No. 310, §1. Amended by Acts 1980, No. 160, §1; Acts 2011, No. 98, §1.
The Louisiana legislature allows ambulance to violate ordinary traffic laws in emergency situations. In order to be protected by this statute, the EMS vehicle must have its lights or sirens on. If they do not, they will be held to ordinary negligence principles. If they do, they may be able to speed, run red lights or stop signs, or make illegal turns. Even with the protections of this statute, if the EMS driver is behaving recklessly and causes a crash, they will still be liable for the injuries caused.
Because an ambulance may be speeding, it is possible for an accident to cause very serious injuries. If you have been hit by an ambulance and suffered injuries, it is important to consult an experienced attorney who is familiar with the special laws that apply to ambulance drivers and emergency vehicles.