Liability for a Car Accident Caused by a Heart Attack or Sudden Medical Emergency
One of the scariest things that could happen to any driver is for him or her to suffer a sudden medical emergency, like a heart attack, seizure, stroke or sudden loss of consciousness. Drivers could easily lose all control of the vehicle and get into a life-threatening crash.
Generally, a heart attack or other medical emergency is not the driver’s fault. That may raise questions about whether the driver can be held liable for the damages the crash caused.
TSR Injury Law discusses this issue in greater detail below, explaining some of the issues that will likely need to be considered. Our firm offers a free consultation for crash victims to discuss their potential legal options. Whether you are considering filing a claim, or already have and are struggling to negotiate with the insurance company, Bloomington auto accident lawyers may be able to help.
What is a Sudden Medical Emergency?
A sudden medical emergency is an unforeseen situation that puts a person’s life at risk. For example, people do not know when a stroke, heart attack, seizure or sudden loss of consciousness (syncope) may occur. When these things happen, immediate medical treatment is essential to save the person’s life and try to stabilize his or her condition.
If you have ever experienced a sudden medical emergency or witnessed someone else experiencing this type of emergency, you know they would be unable to safely operate a motor vehicle while it is happening.
That is why it is so important for people who are experiencing signs of a stroke or heart attack to get off the road as soon as possible.
Signs of a heart attack include:
- Pain in the center of the chest that feels like pressure or squeezing
- Pain in one or both arms, neck, jaw or back
- Shortness of breath, with or without chest pain
Signs of a stroke include:
- Numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, particularly on one side of your body
- Trouble speaking
- Sudden, severe headache
- Loss of balance
- One side of your face is drooping
Can Drivers Use a Sudden Medical Emergency Defense?
Many states allow drivers to use a sudden medical emergency defense to escape liability for a crash that occurred when they were incapacitated. The theory of this defense is the driver did not act negligently cause the crash, so he or she should not be held liable for any resulting damages.
However, Minnesota does not appear to have clear statutes or case law on this type of defense. This shows why it is so important to work with a licensed attorney, as countering this defense could be quite complicated.
In March 2000, an appellate court in Minnesota discussed this issue in a case involving a car crash where one driver suffered a seizure. The court said the standard for the sudden incapacity defense was not well-established in the state and existing case law on sudden medical emergencies is sparse. In the appeal, the victim of the crash was requesting the court to reverse the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the other driver.
The appeal argued there was inconclusive evidence the other driver suffered a seizure. The appeal disputed the testimony of the emergency medical technician, who said witnesses said they thought the driver had a seizure. The appeal asserted there was abundant evidence the driver fell asleep and did not have a seizure.
Another case that dealt with this issue was dismissed by a federal district court in February 2014. The lawsuit involved a crash between a fuel truck and a passenger vehicle.
Medical tests found the truck driver had a sudden drop in blood pressure that caused him to pass out. The fuel truck driver’s defense team argued this was an “Act of God” and the court dismissed the case. The fuel truck driver did not face liability for the crash.
Generally, the key to successfully using an Act of God defense is to provide evidence the event could not have been foreseen or mitigated by human activity.
What if the Emergency was Foreseeable?
Sudden medical emergencies are often not foreseeable. However, there are times when drivers should know they have an increased risk of losing consciousness or becoming suddenly incapacitated. For example, someone who is prone to seizures may have been told not to drive by his or her doctor.
Someone diagnosed as diabetic needs to carefully monitor his or her blood sugar to make sure it does not get too low. If this happens, there is a higher risk of the driver passing out. If a diabetic does not eat for a long period of time and gets behind the wheel, he could be putting himself and others at risk.
As noted earlier, there are common signs of a heart attack or stroke, so if a driver identifies these symptoms for getting behind the wheel, he or she may not be able to use a sudden medical emergency defense.
If you are involved in a crash with a driver who was incapacitated, your attorney may look for a history of medical issues to determine if the emergency was foreseeable or not.
Need Help After a Crash? Give TSR Injury Law a Call
Our experienced attorneys know how important it is to recover compensation after a crash. We want our clients to have the compensation they need to properly treat their injuries and give them the chance to make the best recovery possible.
Our firm has obtained more than $150 million on behalf of our clients and we do not charge upfront fees for our services.
Schedule a free consultation today to learn more. (612) TSR-TIME