Is a Driver Who Experiences A Medical Emergency Liable for the Accident?
There is a whole range of common issues that cause car accidents. When car crashes happen, there is usually one driver to blame but sometimes both play a role. Distracted driving and drunk driving get most of the attention and deservedly so, but today we’re going to take a look at what happens when medical emergencies cause car accidents. When accidents happen because of an unforeseen medical emergency or disability, the at-fault driver may not be considered negligent because of the sudden medical emergency defense available in many states.
Is a driver who experiences a medical emergency liable for the accident and what is the 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.
There are two factors that are often contested when this defense is used:
When symptoms started
This defense won’t be effective if an expert medical witness can show that the driver should reasonably have noticed symptoms of a health condition before the crash was set into motion and should have pulled over.
If the driver could have foreseen the medical emergency, then they will not likely get away with using this defense. For example, if the driver was diagnosed with narcolepsy and failed to take prescribed medication to manage the symptoms or they had been ordered not to drive then they could have foreseen falling asleep at the wheel. If, however, the driver had no medical history of the condition that suddenly presented itself right before the accident, then they likely could not have foreseen the emergency health issue and may be able to use the defense.
Note that drivers with disabilities cannot use their disability as a defense against liability from a car accident that they caused. Drivers with disabilities must follow the rules of the road and comply with any requirements on a restricted license.
What can I do if I was hit by a driver who experienced an unforeseen medical emergency?
If the at-fault driver cannot be held responsible for the accident they caused then how can the victim recover damages for the accident? If you find yourself in this situation, the best thing you can do is to hire an experienced local car accident attorney who is familiar with the laws in your state. The lawyer will assess the situation and can discuss your legal rights. Those with personal injury protection (PIP) on their car insurance in Washington State will be able to recover damages regardless but an injury lawyer will be able to discuss your options.
Seek the help of a car accident attorney
If you or a loved one was injured 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!