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Car Accidents, Medical Emergencies, and the Medical Emergency Defense

Posted on: November 22nd, 2017 No Comments

Ambulance responding to medical emergencyAlthough rare, auto accidents are sometimes caused by sudden “medical emergencies,” which cause a driver to lose control of their car.

Wondering what happens if you or a loved one were involved in an accident involving a driver who experienced a medical emergency while behind the wheel?

Read on to learn more about car accidents involving sudden medical emergencies.

Car Accidents Caused By Sudden Medical Emergencies

In many car accident scenarios, attributing fault is relatively straightforward. When a driver acted negligently – perhaps by running a red light, texting while driving, or driving while intoxicated – and caused an accident, it’s clear that he should be the one held responsible.

But if a driver is afflicted by a medical emergency while behind the wheel and causes an accident as a result, assigning fault and liability becomes much more complicated.

Case law reflects instances when a driver suddenly suffers a heart attack or a disabling condition that causes them to lose consciousness or lose control of their vehicle. In those circumstances, the existence of a sudden and unforeseeable “medical emergency” can provide a complete defense to liability.

What Constitutes a Medical Emergency While Driving?

A variety of sudden health conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, and seizures, may be considered medical emergencies when a driver is behind the wheel. In most cases, for the medical emergency defense to apply, a driver must have:

  • lost consciousness before the accident occurred as a result of the emergency
  • lost control of their vehicle as the result of losing consciousness
  • suffered a medical condition or episode that could have not have been predicted based on their past health history.

It’s also important to recognize that the medical emergency must have come on quickly, without presenting symptoms that would have enabled the driver to address the issue before being overcome.

Understanding the Medical Emergency Defense

The medical emergency defense protects drivers who have suffered medical emergencies behind the wheel from being held liable for accidents that were caused as a result of the episode they suffered while driving.

Drivers in these scenarios were not acting negligently. Though they may have caused the accident, the actual stimulus for the accident was something beyond their control that could not have been foreseen. As a result, it is unfair to hold them responsible.

To rely upon the medical emergency defense, a driver must demonstrate that they could not reasonably have anticipated or prevented this condition from occurring. Although a defendant’s medical condition is rarely at issue in litigation, this unusual scenario requires careful assessment of the driver’s prior and current medical history.

If the driver had no known prior health conditions, and suffered some medical attack for the first time while driving, they would likely be excused from liability. On the other hand, a driver may be held negligent if they had experienced prior similar conditions, failed to take prescription medication, or had reason to believe that a medical “attack” might occur.

Get The Help You Need After an Accident Caused By a Medical Emergency

Car accidents involving medical emergencies can be complicated. As a result, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible if you think you may be entitled to compensation.

At Maynard, O’Connor, Smith & Catalinotto, we’ve been helping clients in Albany, Saugerties, Johnstown and throughout the surrounding communities for decades. We have handled personal injury cases of all kinds, and know what it takes to get you the compensation you deserve after an accident has left you or a loved one seriously injured.

Let us help you ensure that your rights and interests are fully protected. Give us a call today at  (800) 721-3553 or contact us online to schedule a free case review with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.

Looking for additional guidance in terms of how to proceed after you’ve been involved in a car accident? The following resources are a good place to start:

What To Do After A Car Accident: Tips and guidelines for how to proceed after an automobile accident, both when you’re on the scene and in the weeks and months following the accident.

Why You Should Always Report a NY Car Accident: Find out why it’s in your best interest to report your car accident promptly to the police and other authorities.

Should I Hire A Personal Injury Attorney After A Car Accident? Learn why it’s best to hire a professional to help you if you’ve been injured in a car accident and you’re planning to pursue compensation.

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