When a sudden medical emergency causes a car accident

Because a sudden medical emergency can happen anywhere, there’s always a (small, very small) risk when driving. What can get confusing should this situation ever happen though, is who to assign blame to.

Unlike a car accident resulting from a distracted driver, or someone who’s speeding or failing to yield, the person who caused the accident after a medical emergency isn’t necessarily at fault.

Working with the right legal team can help you establish whether a car accident caused by a medical condition does constitute a ‘sudden emergency’ and who’s responsible for damages.

What constitutes a medical emergency?

There are a wide variety of medical emergencies, but not all come on suddenly, and many are not likely to happen while driving. Those that do fit the definition of sudden medical emergency often involve losing consciousness and can immediately impair a driver’s ability to control their car.

The most common medical emergencies while driving include:

  • Seizures
  • Blackouts
  • Fainting
  • Heart attack or chest pain
  • Stroke
  • Choking
  • Aneurysm
  • Sudden blurred vision

Certain undiagnosed conditions can also count, like if a diabetic, who isn’t diagnosed, has a sudden drop in blood sugar and passes out while on the road.

How many car accidents are caused by heart attacks?

While it may seem like you hear about car accidents caused by heart attacks the most, it’s actually medical emergencies related to diabetic events, seizures and blackouts that cause the most car crashes. In fact, 35 percent of car accidents that occur because of a medical condition happen because of a seizure, while only 11 percent occur because of a heart attack.

In total though, only 1.3 percent of all drivers involved in car crashes are there because of a sudden medical emergency.

The sudden medical emergency law

To protect drivers who truly experience a sudden medical issue while driving, Georgia has the ‘sudden emergency doctrine.’ This states that a person in a sudden or unexpected situation, which requires immediate action, isn’t expected to receive the same judgment as expected otherwise. This translates to being held liable when it comes to a car accident.

For this defense to work, the driver must establish, through proof, that their sudden emergency was not a result of their own negligence, that it was truly unexpected and they had no time to debate or alter what happened immediately afterward. They must also establish that the course of action they took was reasonable given their circumstances.

For a medical emergency while driving, proof typically revolves around medical documentation that the driver became incapacitated suddenly, leading to  the loss of control of the vehicle. Again, proof must show that this incapacitation wasn’t foreseeable, which means certain conditions can put holes in this defense, including:

  • If a person causes a car accident because of a sudden medical emergency, yet were told by their doctor they shouldn’t be driving.
  • If a person causes a car accident because of a heart attack and has a history of heart issues.
  • If a person has a medical condition and isn’t properly caring for themselves, leading to a medical emergency.

On the flip side, there are situations where this is a viable dense. If a person is in a car accident caused by a medical condition, and they didn’t know they had a preexisting condition, they may still be able to use this defense.

Who pays damages?

Should it be decided that a sudden medical emergency did cause the car accident in question, the driver who had the medical issue is not responsible for damages. However, less than a fifth of all car crashes are caused by medical issues, and not all are considered emergencies. This means that there’s a good chance some liability may be assigned to parties other than yourself if you’re in a car accident of this kind. The best course of action is to consult a lawyer with experience in this area of the law.

What to do if you have a medical emergency while driving

Should you find yourself on the other side of this issue, experiencing a sudden medical emergency while driving, do your best to pull off the road. You’re a danger to all the other drivers around you the longer you continue to operate your vehicle. If you can, also call 911 to get assistance and wait for help to arrive.

Getting legal support for a sudden medical emergency car accident

There’s a lot to prove when it comes to using a sudden medical emergency defense after a car accident, and many times the insurance companies will assume you won’t argue, even if it’s not true. At Watson Injury Law, we never take the word of the insurance company. When they claim a sudden medical emergency we do our research, digging into the specifics of your case to show negligence where it’s applicable and seek out the truth. You don’t have to fight this battle alone, and our compassionate and experienced team will help get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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We want to connect with you and help you during this challenging time. If it’s more convenient to communicate via email, please reach out to us at info@watsoninjurylaw.com.