Medical Emergencies and Car Accidents: Who is to Blame?
What happens if a driver’s medical emergency leads to a crash? And who is to blame? Fault matters enormously in Nevada since a driver is only required to pay compensation to victims if he is to blame for the injuries caused in a collision. If a driver’s conduct is blameless, by contrast, he can avoid legal liability outright, which can leave victims to shoulder their medical care on their own.
Common Medical Emergencies
Drivers can experience many adverse health events while behind the wheel of a car, including:
- Heart attacks
- Passing out
In a few instances, a driver might not have had any prior knowledge that they were suffering from a disease. Instead, the stroke or seizures strike like a bolt out of the blue. Other motorists, however, are well aware that they have a dangerous medical condition, including high blood pressure, heart disease, epilepsy, or narcolepsy but get behind the wheel of a car anyway.
The “Sudden Medical Emergency” Defense in Nevada
Under Nevada law, fault is usually determined by identifying if any motorist was negligent, meaning whether any driver failed to operate his vehicle with sufficient care. If so, then that driver is responsible for the crash. If both drivers were negligent, then they could share responsibility 50/50 or some other percentage. And if no driver was negligent, then no driver is responsible for the accident, even if people are injured.
Examples of negligence include speeding, tailgating, passing illegally, and driving while intoxicated. But in each of these situations, the driver has made a conscious choice to do something. When someone has a heart attack or stroke, or if they pass out, then they haven’t made a conscious decision. Should they be responsible?
Back in the 1950s, the Ohio Supreme Court adopted the “sudden medical emergency” defense in a case called Lehman v. Haynam. This defense relieves a driver of liability for an accident when he is suddenly struck by a period of unconsciousness which he could not anticipate.
The key is that the driver could not foresee that he would lose consciousness and control of the vehicle. Some people with medical conditions, however, should anticipate that their condition could strike again, especially if they do not take their medication as prescribed.
Currently, Nevada’s Supreme Court has not adopted the sudden medical emergency defense, though some district courts in Nevada allow for a jury instruction to this effect. At our firm, we have seen many defendants raise this defense to try and slide out from under responsibility for an accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, only 1.3% of all crashes are caused by medical conditions, but this doesn’t stop some defendants from trying to use the defense.
Determining Fault in Nevada
If a driver lost consciousness and struck you, then you are probably wondering whether the driver can raise the sudden medical emergency defense. Chances are, the driver will raise it, especially in a settlement conference. However, this does not mean you can’t get compensation.
Your attorneycan look for information that shows the driver was aware of his medical condition before the crash. For example, our attorneys would press for information related to the following:
- Whether the defendant had been diagnosed by a doctor with the condition
- Whether the defendant had experienced the same or similar medical emergency before
- Whether a doctor had prescribed medication and whether the driver had taken it before the accident
- Whether a doctor had told the defendant not to drive
Imagine a driver has an epileptic seizure, which causes a crash. This person has never had a seizure before and has never been diagnosed with epilepsy. This driver truly suffered a sudden medical emergency and might not be responsible for the accident.
However, now imagine the driver was diagnosed with epilepsy 6 months ago and has had seizures before. A doctor has prescribed him medication, which he did not take on the day of the accident. In this example, the driver should have seen that he is at high risk for having a seizure, so this driver might not be able to successfully raise a sudden medical emergency defense.
Evidence that is helpful in cases involving the sudden medical emergency defense include:
- The defendant driver’s medical records, which can show if the defendant has been diagnosed with the medical condition.
- Any blood test the driver took immediately after the accident, which can show whether the defendant took his medication the day of the accident.
- The testimony of people who know the defendant, who can testify as to whether he has experienced previous medical emergencies.
Most injured victims cannot find this evidence on their own and wouldn’t know how to request it. Your own insurance company might help you file a claim, but they might also not get all the relevant information that is necessary.
We can help. The local car accident attorneys at Naqvi Injury Law has helped many people settle medical condition car accident claims favorably. If the driver who struck you is claiming to have suffered a sudden medical emergency, we will carefully investigate to make sure the claim has merit. If not, we can push for compensation in a settlement.
Speak to a Nevada Car Accident Lawyer
Medical emergencies can strike in an instant, leaving innocent victims injured. At Naqvi Injury Law, our lawyers are always here to fight to get you compensation. If you have been injured, don’t delay. Pick up the phone and contact us for a free, confidential consultation.
If the defendant truly suffered a legitimate medical emergency, we can discuss other possible options for compensation, including medical payments coverage. Another motorist might have also contributed to the crash, who you could sue for compensation as well.