Firefighters have a special place in the heart of America. Next to teachers, apple pie, and baseball, firefighters are revered for their heroic efforts in maintaining order in America’s cities. Firefighters must endure life-threatening situations in their jobs. As a result, there can be many things that can go wrong with a rescue. Unfortunately for some people, the services provided by firefighters can result in serious, permanent injury, or perhaps even death. Those affected may feel the need to bring suit to seek compensation for resulting injuries. There are special laws protecting firefighters doing their jobs. Each state is different and it is best to check with local laws before bringing suit.
In Illinois, firefighter actions are governed primarily by the Firefighter Liability Act, which provides tort protection to firefighters in the line of duty. However, the Local Government and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act also applies to protect the actions of firefighters in emergency situations, as they are government employees. The Tort Immunity Act allows for liability for government employee acts that are willful and wanton in nature. The section provides in relevant part:
Except for willful and wanton conduct, neither a local public entity, nor a public employee acting within the scope of his employment, is liable for an injury caused by the negligent operation of a motor vehicle or firefighting or rescuing equipment, when responding to an emergency call, including transportation of a person to a medical facility.
This section clarifies the scope of protection for firefighters in emergency situations. It also protects firefighters using their own personal vehicles. In one case, a volunteer firefighter involved in a car accident in his own car was entitled to raise protection under the Act. The court reasoned that the Act does not specify the type of vehicle but rather focuses on the status of the person when engaged in government employment.
The Motor Vehicle Code extends protection to firefighters in transit to emergency situations by allowing them to exceed the speed limit and to disregard traffic signals while on the job. This provision trumps any other relevant provisions that may apply thus shielding a firefighter from liability for negligent acts while responding to a call. Although the Act requires firefighters to display audible and visual signals when responding to a call, it is not willful nor wanton if they failed to do so.
Governments cannot be held liable under the Tort Immunity Act for failure to provide firefighting services. The Emergency Medical Services Act applies when governments provide inadequate rescue services. It is important to note that for complete firefighter protection it is necessary to look across several acts for the most comprehensive protection for firefighters.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on the above information as all cases are different and different laws apply to different cases. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance. If you were injured in an accident involving firefighters please call one of our attorneys at David K. Kremin & Associates, and we will give you a free consultation. We never charge unless we collect for you. Please call 1(800) ASK-A-LAWYER or 1(800)275-2529.