What happens when a driver causes an accident due to a medical condition?

A pre-existing medical condition can negatively impact a driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. In Alaska, the defense of sudden medical emergency has been allowed against a claim of negligence per se. If the driver is unaware that he has a medical condition, and if that medical condition leads to an accident, he may be exempt from liability due to the sudden emergency doctrine. To use this defense, the driver must demonstrate that he was unaware of the collision risk stemming from his medical condition. If a driver is aware that he has a medical condition, and if that medical condition was the cause of his accident, he may be held liable for the collision.

Sudden Medical Emergency Defense

A driver who wishes to use the sudden medical emergency defense generally must prove the following:

  • The driver suddenly lost consciousness prior to the accident. If a vehicle operator experiences symptoms that indicate a medical emergency, he should stop driving, rather than endangering himself and others by continuing to drive. However, if the onset of symptoms is so sudden that the driver doesn’t have time to react to the medical emergency, he won’t be held liable.
  • The medical emergency that caused the accident was unforeseeable. If the driver had a history of the medical condition which led to the collision, he is unlikely to succeed in using the sudden medical emergency defense. This is because he had reasons to suspect that he might suffer a medical emergency while driving.
  • The loss of consciousness caused the driver to lose control over the vehicle. The driver’s medical condition must have led directly to his loss of consciousness, which in turn resulted in the collision.

Relevant Medical Conditions

Medical conditions that may cause a driver to lose control over his vehicle include:

  • Heart disease. Weakness, fatigue, and shortness of breath caused by heart disease can increase the risk of losing consciousness.
  • Diabetic shock. Diabetic shock is triggered by severe low blood sugar, and it can cause the driver of the vehicle to faint.
  • Seizures. Seizures may be caused by brain infections, epilepsy, stroke, and high blood pressure.

You Need an Attorney

If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by a driver who blames the collision on a medical condition, you need an experienced attorney who knows how to fight a sudden medical emergency defense. To learn more, contact the Law Office of Ben Crittenden to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation.