Who is Liable for a Car Accident Caused by a Medical Condition?

Some of the most common causes of car accidents include speeding, drunk driving, drowsy driving, and distracted driving. In most cases, determining fault for these types of accidents is a straightforward process. However, if a motorist has a medical condition that causes an accident, the process of determining liability becomes complicated. For example, if the medical condition is undiagnosed, and the driver caused an accident after having a seizure, there is no way that they could have known that something bad could happen.

If a motorist has a diagnosed medical condition, and they know that the condition can cause seizures, heart issues, or other health complications that can make driving unsafe, they will likely be held liable for any injuries resulting from the accident. If someone is injured in a car accident involving a driver who has a medical condition, a skilled car accident lawyer will assist them with the claims process and ensure that they receive the compensation they deserve.

Examples of Health Conditions that Impact a Driver’s Ability

Studies show that approximately 20 percent of all traffic accidents are caused by physical or psychological health conditions. Although not all medical conditions impair a motorist’s ability to safety operate a vehicle, some can cause issues that make driving unsafe. The following are examples of health conditions that can impact a motorist’s ability to safely operate a vehicle:

  • Diabetes: If a motorist’s blood sugar is too low, it can make it difficult for a driver to concentrate. In some cases, it can cause vision problems and the driver may pass out. Over time, diabetes can cause nerve damage in the legs and feet, making it difficult to feel the pedals.
  • Heart disease: This can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, weakness, and an increased risk of loss of consciousness, all of which can be extremely dangerous when driving a car.
  • Seizure disorders: Epilepsy and other seizure disorders can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicle and cause a serious car accident, even if the seizure is relatively minor. All states allow people with epilepsy to have a driver’s license, although they must report their condition to the state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV). In Maryland, a driver must be seizure-free for 90 days to be eligible for a driver’s license.
  • Poor eyesight: Motorists are required to take an eye examination before obtaining a driver’s license. When a driver cannot clearly see other motorists, road signs, traffic signals, or pedestrians, he or she can cause a serious car accident.

If a motorist has any of the above health conditions, it does not necessarily mean that they will not be able to obtain a driver’s license, but it may mean that their driver’s license will have limitations and/or restrictions. The restrictions will be based on the specific health condition and its severity. For example, if a driver has epilepsy, they may not be allowed to drive at night or on busy interstate highways.

How is Liability Determined if an Accident is Caused by a Medical Condition?

With certain car accidents, determining liability is an uncomplicated process. For example, if a motorist rear-ends another car, the driver who hit the car will almost certainly be held liable for any injuries or property damage caused by the accident. In addition, if an accident is caused by a driver who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, there is no question that the drunk driver will be held liable for the accident.

Things are not so cut and dry when an accident is caused by an undiagnosed medical condition. What makes these cases even more complicated is the fact that there is no standard method of determining fault. Each case has unique variables, including the extent to which the medical condition caused the accident, the severity of the injuries, and whether intentional negligence was a factor.

The judge who is assigned to the case will closely examine all the evidence, including testimonies from cardiologists, neurologists, and other medical professionals to determine whether the driver was aware of their medical condition prior to the accident. If the driver was aware, the judge will then need to determine whether the motorist stopped taking their medication or failed to follow the treatment protocol for their medical condition. For example, if a driver has diabetes and fails to take his or her insulin when necessary, the driver’s blood glucose will not be properly regulated, which can cause a range of potentially dangerous symptoms that can increase the risk of a car accident.

A driver who is aware of a medical condition but fails to take the appropriate medication is more likely to be held liable for an accident than someone who causes a car accident after suffering from a sudden, undiagnosed epileptic seizure. The judge overseeing the case will look at the evidence to gain a thorough understanding of the degree to which the medical condition caused the car accident. If the driver had only slight impairments, the judge may find that the health condition had little to no impact on the crash, whereas a major epileptic seizure will likely be a significant factor when determining fault.

What is the Sudden Emergency Defense?

If a motorist who causes a car accident is unaware of the fact that he or she suffers from an undiagnosed medical condition, the process of securing compensation for the injured victims can be complicated. If this is the case, the driver may be able to use what is known as the sudden emergency doctrine as a defense strategy. The rationale behind this line of defense is that there is no negligence involved because the accident was beyond the driver’s control. As a result, the driver should not be required to pay compensation to the injured victim. To be able to claim this defense, the person who caused the accident must prove the following:

  • Sudden loss of consciousness: The motorist must have lost consciousness so suddenly that there was no way that they could have reacted in time to prevent the accident from happening. With this defense strategy, the driver must prove that they did not experience any symptoms before losing consciousness.
  • Loss of consciousness led to loss of control over the vehicle: In addition to simple impairment or loss of control, the driver must establish that there was complete loss of consciousness and a complete inability to operate the vehicle.
  • Unconsciousness and resulting loss of control are the result of a medical emergency: This factor of the defense strategy involves obtaining the driver’s medical records. Because the medical condition would likely require immediate medical treatment, the health care professionals or emergency medical technicians would determine the cause of the loss of consciousness and include the diagnosis in their report.

Examples of Sudden Medical Emergencies

Complete unconsciousness is one of the most important elements of the sudden medical emergency defense. The following are examples of sudden medical emergencies that can result in a loss of consciousness:

  • Myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack
  • Seizure
  • Stroke
  • Fainting
  • Severe reaction to medication
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure, often caused by a diabetic condition
  • Mental delusions

How can a Car Accident Lawyer Help?

If a motorist is involved in a car accident and the other driver claimed to have suffered a medical emergency at the time of the crash, an experienced car accident lawyer will protect the victim’s legal rights. The other driver’s insurance company may try to deny coverage based on the sudden medical emergency defense. Oftentimes, these insurance companies will go to any means necessary to deny these claims and avoid paying a fair settlement amount. Retaining the services of a skilled car accident lawyer will ensure that the victims are compensated for the following losses:

  • Medical expenses associated with the injury, including treatment costs, rehabilitation, and ongoing care
  • Lost wages and loss of future wages if the injuries are extensive
  • Pain and suffering caused by the injuries
  • Loss of consortium and a compromised quality of life
  • Other damages based on the nature of the accident and the severity of the injuries

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Victims of All Types of Car Accidents

If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a car accident involving another driver who suffers from a medical condition, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Determining fault in these types of accidents can be a complex process, but our experienced legal team will ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. We will walk you through every step of the claims process and address all your questions and concerns. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.