Who Is At Fault When a Crash Is Caused By a Medical Emergency?

Many folks incorrectly assume that if a driver experiences a medical emergency and causes a crash, he is not at fault for the injuries he causes to other motorists.  In fact, the determination of fault in these circumstances is heavily dependent on whether the driver did something (or failed to do something) which brought about the medical emergency and whether the medical emergency was foreseeable by the driver. 

Hypothetical Scenario #1: Diabetic Shock

            Susie is a type 2 diabetic whose symptoms are well controlled as long as she takes her diabetes medication as prescribed and eats portion-controlled meals at regular intervals  Today, Susie is in a hurry, so she skips a meal and as a result, her blood sugar gets so low that she develops blurred vision and loses coordination.  While experiencing diabetic shock, Susie’s car careens through an intersection and hits a car that is stopped for a red light, injuring the driver of the other car.  Was Susie at fault or was this simply an accident?

Hypothetical Scenario #2: First Time Seizure

            James is driving himself, his wife, and their two children home after a day out at the park.  While they are sitting in traffic and without warning, James loses consciousness and begins convulsing, causing him to presses on the accelerator pedal of his car and rear-end the car in front of them.  Everyone in the front car is injured.  James is evaluated by emergency room doctors and informed that he suffered a Grand mal seizure.  Soon thereafter, he is diagnosed with a brain tumor and told that this was the likely cause of the seizure.  Was James at fault or was this simply an accident? 

Determination of Fault Involving Medical Emergencies

            The first hypothetical scenario involves a driver with an existing diagnosis who should know the consequences of failing to take certain action to control her diabetes symptoms.  Especially if she has suffered adverse consequences before, has researched them, or has discussed them with her doctor, it could be said that Susie’s choices led to a foreseeable consequences and she is at fault for the injuries she caused.  Moreover, any time a driver does not follow medical advice with the knowledge it could lead to adverse consequences (like loss of coordination or control, even momentarily), she may be liable if her medical emergency causes injury to others in a crash. 

            In contrast, the second hypothetical scenario involves an unforeseen medical event.  Presumably, James had not previously been diagnosed with a brain tumor and suffered his first-ever seizure when this crash occurred.  It is an unfortunate event and based on the facts we are given, it may not have been foreseeable enough to hold James legally accountable for the injuries caused to the occupants in the vehicle ahead of him.

            If you or a family member was injured by another driver who experienced a medical emergency, contact the Colorado Springs Injury Attorneys at Rosenbaum & Wootton, P.C. by calling 719.634.0102 or by clicking on this link to schedule your FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.

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