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Car Accidents Caused by Medical Conditions – Is the Affected Driver at Fault?

| Category: Car Accidents | May 17, 2022

Some statistics report that nearly 20% of motor vehicle accidents are due to one of the drivers suffering a medical event behind the wheel. Whether or not those drivers can be held liable for the accident and the injuries they cause is a complicated question, both in terms of the law and the facts surrounding the accident. A car accident lawyer can provide you with valuable guidance if you have been injured in a car accident and the other driver is claiming that it was caused by a medical emergency. 

Common Medical Events That Can Cause a Car Accident

The medical emergencies that cause car accidents can be completely unexpected or due to an underlying condition. Whether unexpected or due to a pre-existing condition, the nature of the emergency causes the driver to lose control of the car. For example, medical emergencies that involve the following can quickly cause an accident:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of muscular control
  • Loss of equilibrium
  • Extreme pain
  • Cognitive impairment

These symptoms are common for people with seizure disorders, heart conditions, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or dementia. Whether or not the driver knew they had the condition could complicate your case considerably. In addition, some medical events may be completely unexpected such as a sudden stroke or choking on food that they were eating. Whatever the case may be, an experienced attorney can assess the facts and determine whether the other driver should be held accountable. 

Known vs. Unknown Medical Conditions

If the driver lost control of the vehicle due to an unknown medical condition, the medical emergency alone will likely be insufficient to establish negligence. In those cases, your accident was truly an unavoidable accident that occurred at no one’s fault. 

The analysis becomes more complex if the medical emergency was caused by a known medical condition. Some medical conditions do not prevent people from driving, while others, such as epilepsy, may prevent someone from driving at all. Another factor that may determine liability is whether the driver was actively managing their medical condition or had been neglecting their health at the time of their accident. 

As an example, let’s assume that a driver has a heart condition. Without warning, they have a heart attack while driving and cause an accident. Establishing liability may be difficult unless you can prove that they had neglected to take their medication or had ignored warnings from their physician.  

Proving Your Case

Medical emergencies are often raised as a defense against liability. In other words, the defendant driver claims that they were not negligent by virtue of the fact that they suffered a medical event that was beyond their control and they therefore should not be held liable. If raised as a defense, the defendant driver bears the burden of proof, meaning that they must introduce evidence that supports their claim. This may require testimony from witnesses at the scene as well as medical experts. They may also need to submit their medical records as evidence. 

In addition, the other driver will need to prove that the medical emergency caused the accident. A relatively minor medical event, such as a spike in blood pressure or other sudden illness, may not have prohibited the driver from pulling off the road or taking other precautionary measures. 

These are just some of the reasons why it is important to work with an experienced car accident attorney. They will know how to anticipate this defense and what evidence will be needed in order to overcome it. It’s worth noting that many lawyers suspect that this defense is often without merit when raised, believing that it is a last-ditch effort to avoid responsibility for the accident. As a result, it is vital that you inform your attorney if the other driver made any statements concerning a medical event that caused the accident. 

Call the Law Offices of Thomas E. Pyles if You Have Been Injured in an Accident Caused by a Medical Emergency 

Car accidents involving medical emergencies involve complicated legal issues and require close analysis of the facts in order to determine liability. With over 3 decades of experience and offices in Waldorf, Laurel, and Leonardtown, car accident attorney Thomas E. Pyles can overcome whatever obstacles your case presents so that you can get fair compensation for your injuries. If you have been injured and need help, call us at 301-705-5006 or send us an email to schedule a free consultation.