Pennsylvania law governing health care personnel reporting requirements,
provides for immunity from civil and criminal liability when reporting.
Therefore, health care personnel are immune from any civil or criminal
liability when reporting an impaired driver (the patient) to PennDOT. NO
ACTION may be brought against any person or agency for providing the
required information. Additionally, these reports are held in
confidence. Information regarding the source of the report or its
contents is not released, even to the patient.
Health care personnel have reported to PennDOT that they are
very concerned about the liability of reporting and in fact, in some
cases are reluctant to report because of this concern. However, immunity
from liability is ensured by
which provides immunity from civil and criminal liability. This concern
may have resulted from the widespread publication of two cases in the
press concerning the reporting issue.
Case 1: Reported driver with alcohol abuse
The first case involved a man who was reported to PennDOT for
alcohol abuse. Although this report generated significant discussion
and press attention, PennDOT publicly supported the decision to report
and has kept health care personnel in confidence. In addition, the
Medical Advisory Board reviewed the criteria for reporting substance
abuse and decided that no changes were necessary.
Case 2: Consequences of not reporting
The second case involved a civil lawsuit brought against a
physician for not advising PennDOT to recall a driver’s license. The
physician had reported the patient’s lapse of consciousness to PennDOT
but "did not know" if the patient could safely operate a vehicle given
his history. The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled in favor of the
physician that the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code only requires health care
personnel to provide medical information to PennDOT, who then makes the
determination of a driver’s competency.
As a result of this case, the medical regulations relating to
physical and mental criteria,
including vision standards relating to the licensing of drivers, has
been updated to state that anyone with "periodic episodes of loss of
attention or awareness, which are of unknown etiology" within the past
year cannot drive.
This case emphasizes the fact that if health
care personnel DO report, they are immune from civil and criminal
liability. However, if health care personnel do not report there is a
possibility they could be held responsible as a proximate cause of a
crash resulting in death, injury or property loss caused by their