Determining Fault in Accidents Caused by a Medical Emergency
It can be tricky to determine fault in any motor vehicle accident but when the driver who caused a crash was experiencing a medical emergency, it adds to the confusion. Insurance companies are just as interested in determining fault in accidents caused by a medical emergency as they are in any other accident.
If you or a loved one was injured in an accident with a driver who experienced a medical emergency, it is in the injured party’s interest to seek help from a local car accident lawyer to help fight for the settlement you deserve.
Health conditions that can make driving unsafe
There are many health conditions that can make it unsafe to drive, including:
- Impaired vision
- Heart disease
- Oxygen use
- Mood and anxiety disorders
- Traumatic brain injury
- Seizure disorders and epilepsy
- Parkinson’s disease
- Prescription drugs that cause drowsiness
Determining Fault in an Accident Caused by a Medical Emergency
Sometimes accident liability is clear cut, such as when a drunk driver rear ends another vehicle. It can be much more complicated to determine liability for an accident that was caused by a driver who was having a seizure or other medical episode because there is no standard way for determining fault. Every accident involving a medical incident is different but generally, fault is determined based on several factors such as intentional negligence, how much the medical emergency contributed to the accident, and the percentage of fault attributed to each driver.
In these types of cases, expert testimony from medical specialists may be needed to determine whether the driver was aware of their medical condition before they got behind the wheel. If the driver knew about their medical condition and drove despite knowing that they could be a danger to themselves and others on the road, they may have acted with intentional negligence.
How much the medical condition contributed to the accident
Next, the severity of the condition will be considered. If there was only slight impairment then it may be determined that the driver’s health issue had little to nothing to do with the cause of the accident. On the other hand, if someone had a sudden heart attack while driving, their medical emergency would likely be considered a major factor when assessing fault.
Degree of fault
Washington State has no serious injury threshold which means that insurance companies pay for an injury based on the claimant’s degree of fault in the accident, rather than the severity of the injury. Washington follows the Pure Comparative Fault Rule which means that an injured party may only recover damages for the percentage of fault assigned to the other driver. For example, if the injured party is determined to be 10 percent at fault for the accident, their settlement will be reduced by 10 percent.
Sudden medical emergency defense
Washington State law allows drivers to use the sudden medical emergency defense to avoid liability for a car accident that they caused. A sudden medical emergency defense is used when the at-fault driver lost consciousness right before the accident, and this is what caused them to lose control of their vehicle. In order for this defense to be viable, the health emergency must come on suddenly, meaning that the driver had no time to react, stop, or reduce the seriousness of the car accident.
Seek the help of a car accident attorney
If you or a loved one was injured in a collision because of the negligence of another, contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal rights. Let an experienced car accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times larger with the help of a lawyer. Call the personal injury lawyers at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!