Who Is Liable for a Car Accident Caused By a Medical Emergency?

In some car accident cases, liability is clear. In a crash involving a distracted driver, for example, that driver will be liable. Car accidents can occur for many different reasons, however, including things that are outside of the driver’s control. If a medical emergency, such as a heart attack or stroke, causes a car accident, liability can be difficult to determine.

Do You Live in a Fault or No-Fault State?

Liability for a car accident will depend largely on the law in your state. Some states use a no-fault law, meaning fault for the crash will have no bearing on liability for damages. In a no-fault state, all injured victims will go to their own insurance companies for reimbursement, regardless of fault. In a fault state, on the other hand, the injured victim will need to determine fault and causation before filing an insurance claim. The victim will file the claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company. Kansas is a no-fault state, while Missouri uses a fault law.

Can a Medical Emergency Excuse Someone From Liability?

The fault law in your state is not all that will determine liability for a car accident caused by a medical emergency. The driver may have had no way of predicting the emergency, especially if the medical condition was undiagnosed at the time of the accident. In this case, the driver may not be liable for damages. Since the medical condition was not the driver’s fault and not something a reasonable person could have foreseen, the driver may not bear liability.

It is a different situation if the driver knew or reasonably should have known of the risk of a medical emergency while driving. If a doctor diagnosed a motorist with epilepsy, for instance, and that driver knowingly disregarded a doctor’s recommendation not to operate heavy machinery, the motorist could be liable for a related car accident. The same is true if a driver was taking a medication with known dangerous side effects, such as dizziness or fatigue, and this is what caused the car accident.

How to Prove Liability for a Car Accident Caused By a Medical Emergency

After a car accident caused by a medical emergency, it will be up to you as an injured victim to prove the other driver’s liability if you wish to seek compensation from that person’s insurer. You or your lawyer will need to prove that the motorist knew about the physical or psychological condition, such as diabetes, low blood sugar, vision problems or seizures, yet chose to drive anyway. This may take evidence such as the other driver’s medical records or an expert medical witness.

Liability will not be as cut-and-dry, however, for an undiagnosed medical condition that causes a car accident. If evidence shows the at-fault driver had no way of knowing about his or her medical condition and the dangers of driving, the driver may not bear liability for the wreck. The judge overseeing your case will analyze any available evidence against the driver to ascertain if the medical condition is what caused the car accident. If so, the judge will look to see if a reasonable and prudent driver would have known not to operate the motor vehicle. Keep in mind that you will only be able to hold the other driver liable if you live in a fault-based insurance state or if your injuries are serious enough in a no-fault state.

What Is the Sudden Emergency Defense?

If your lawyer cannot prove that the other driver’s medical emergency was foreseeable, the driver may not be liable for your damages. The other driver can use the sudden emergency defense to fight liability for actions that arise out of an unexpected emergency. This could invalidate your injury claim in Kansas City. If you were injured in a car accident caused by a medical emergency, contact a car accident lawyer for assistance proving liability. A lawyer can help you combat the sudden emergency defense, when possible.


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