September 19, 2016

Posted: September 19, 2016 |

Orange County Auto Accident Lawyer Explains When a Sudden Medical Emergency Constitutes a Defense

If a motorist rear-ends your car when you stop at a red light, you might assume that liability is so clear that you do not need to retain an attorney.  However, many people learn that car accident claims which supposedly involve “clear liability” frequently become contentious disputes because insurance companies have extensive litigation resources at their disposal.  When individuals injured in auto accidents attempt to pursue a civil lawsuit without legal representation, they often fail to realize how misguided this strategy is until it is too late.

The rear-impact accident at a red light referenced above might sound like an obvious case of negligence by the driver that slams into the car stopped at the traffic light.  However, the at-fault driver might claim to have been rendered unconscious by a sudden medical emergency.  Although a medical condition or illness does not necessarily excuse a driver’s failure to operate a motor vehicle safely, a driver rendered unconscious or otherwise medically incapacitated might use his or her condition as a defense to liability.  

Orange County Personal Injury Attorney Discusses When Medical Emergencies Constitute a Defense

Drivers of motor vehicles have a duty to exercise “ordinary”, “reasonable”, or “due care” to avoid causing foreseeable injury to others when operating a motor vehicle.  Crashing into a car from behind that is stopped at a red light typically will constitute negligent conduct. However, the circumstances will be considered when interpreting the reasonableness of a driver’s conduct.  If the driver that slams into you loses consciousness because of an undiagnosed medical condition, a jury might determine that the other motorist conduct was reasonable under the circumstances.  The key issue involves determining the foreseeability of a medical condition or illness that incapacitates a driver.  

Legal representation by an experienced Orange County car accident lawyer is important in this situation because drivers often claim they were incapacitated by a medical condition to avoid civil liability.  For example, a motorist might claim that he or she suddenly became incapacitated by a diabetic episode, heart attack, cramp, seizure, stroke, severe sneezing fit, mental delusion, or other medical condition that caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle or otherwise drive unsafely.  The challenge for an injury victim in this situation is to establish that the alleged medical emergency is either fabricated or that the condition was foreseeable.

Proving Claimed Incapacitating Emergency Fraudulent

The process of proving the at-fault driver is lying about a medical condition to avoid liability can be challenging.  If the claimed condition is a stroke or heart attack, this type of false claim might be exposed by obtaining medical records or taking the deposition of the at-fault driver’s physician.  A personal injury attorney can use discovery to seek medical records and request a release of medical information.  For example, a doctor’s discharge instructions might advise a patient not to operate a motor vehicle for a period after release from the hospital or under the influence of certain medications.

While a heart attack or stroke might be fairly easy to contest by obtaining medical records or a doctor’s testimony, there are conditions referred to as “syncope” that present a much more serious challenge.  This term refers to a short loss of consciousness that involves a sudden onset which lasts only a brief period and resolves quickly on its own.  The condition can be caused by reduced blood flow to the entire brain often related to low blood pressure, but diagnosis of the condition often eludes physicians even with extensive efforts to determine the cause or existence of the condition.

A judge or jury might impose liability on drivers if a sudden medical emergency was reasonably foreseeable.  If the driver had been ill or started to feel poorly before the accident, for example, a loss of consciousness might be reasonably foreseeable.  Similarly, a driver with a history of epileptic seizures or diabetic incidents that cause a loss of consciousness also might not be able to claim an unanticipated medical emergency as a defense to liability.

If you suffer injury caused by a driver who claims to have suffered a medical emergency in Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Lake Forest, Irvine or surrounding cities, our Orange County car accident lawyers provide effective representation of personal injury victims.  Our lawyers at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie offer a free consultation so call us at 888-752-7474 to schedule your free consultation today.