Oklahoma law authorizes municipalities to either contract out ambulance services or to regulate and control ambulance services pursuant to a duly enacted ordinance or regulation.[i] There are risks associated with operating an ambulance service. Because of those risks, liability and workers compensation insurance is required by law. The Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act[ii] and the Oklahoma Administrative Workers Compensation Act provides certain levels of coverage. If the municipality chooses to contract out the services, then the contractor is required to provide the liability coverage in a sum of not less than the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims limits and workers compensation insurance.
There are many liability issues when assessing the risks associated with a municipality operating an ambulance service. Municipalities running an Emergency Management Service (EMS), such as an ambulance service, have a responsibility, or duty, to serve their communities in a timely and competent manner. This responsibility begins when a call for assistance comes into the dispatch center and generally ends with transfer of care to the receiving facility. The citizens who call EMS for assistance expect that each step in the process will be handled quickly, safely and appropriately. When calls for assistance are not handled properly, it can lead to liability. The areas of liability fall into three general categories: general liability stemming from injuries that occur as a result of the negligence by an EMS employee, automobile accidents, including property damage and bodily injury, and workers compensation for the employees.