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Sudden Emergency While Driving

Sudden Emergency While Driving

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sudden medical emergencyMy brother’s nursing home roommate had a stroke while he was driving. This made me think about the defense position that a motor vehicle accident was caused by a sudden medical emergency. These could include:

  • A sudden loss of consciousness
  • A heart attack
  • A seizure
  • A severe sneeze or leg cramp
  • A medication reaction

From a medical and legal perspective, here are some of the issues.

1.Was the event sudden? Did the driver become suddenly incapacitated? Last year when I taught a program in Miami for nursing home attorneys, I talked to an attorney who told me of a client of his who has an uncontrolled seizure disorder. This driver had been in a car crash. That had not stopped him from driving again. He did not become suddenly incapacitated – he knew of his condition.
2. Could the driver have foreseen this would happen? For example, if the driver took a strong narcotic for the first time and got behind the wheel to drive, did he know or should he have been warned that this was ill advised?
3. Was the driver unable to control his or her motor vehicle because of the incapacity?
4. Did the collision result from a loss of control resulting from the sudden medical incapacity? A person with fainting episodes could get into an accident because of circumstances unrelated to the history of fainting.

If the driver survived, testimony about his behavior immediately before after an accident could be important. Did he look alert and unimpaired? A careful review of the medical records, particularly of treatment before the crash, will help to support or refute a claim of a medical condition that could result in a sudden medical emergency. The nurses at Med League have extensive experience reviewing medical records to look for details about a patient’s condition. Give us a call – we’re happy to help.

See David Kopstein, Defeat the “sudden medical emergency defense”, Trial, February 2009, page 24

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