Medical emergencies can happen to anyone at any time, especially while driving. Research shows that medical events account for 1.3% of all crashes. While this is a small percentage, collisions these motorists cause tend to be quite catastrophic.
If you are involved in an accident with a driver who suffered a medical emergency, you may wonder if that driver is responsible if you get hurt? The short answer is that it’s complicated.
Our Stapp Law, LLC attorneys will explore what happens when a driver has a medical emergency while behind the wheel in the text that follows. We will also discuss the legal options available to victims of these accidents.
How Pennsylvania Auto Insurance Claims Work
Pennsylvania is one of very few states that subscribes to a no-fault insurance doctrine. This means that motorists would typically file claims with their own insurance companies to recover compensation if they sustained injuries in a car accident.
Sometimes injuries are more serious, and related expenses are more costly than a motorist’s own policy limits will cover. Injured motorists can generally file a claim with a negligent motorist’s insurer to cover their added accident-related expenses.
Injured motorists must prove liability to do so, though. How do you prove negligence when a motorist unexpectedly suffered an adverse medical outcome preceding the crash?
How Might a Driver Who Suffers a Medical Event Be at Fault?
Drivers should note that suffering a medical event doesn’t absolve them of liability for a crash. A driver who suffered a medical event may be deemed to have been negligent or at fault for an accident if they:
- Knew about their medical condition and didn’t take any necessary steps to avoid causing a crash. An example of this is if a diabetic driver knows that their blood sugar levels have been low and did not take steps to correct the issue, such as pulling over to eat or drink something.
- Don’t take steps to avoid an accident after suffering a medical event. An example of this is if a driver has been seeing a cardiologist for a recent heart attack and was advised not to drive but did so anyway.
In short, there are various factors that a Williamsport car accident lawyer may cite when demanding compensation from an at-fault motorist’s insurer on their client’s behalf.
What Is a Sudden Medical Emergency Defense?
Insurance is a big business where insurers’ primary focus is turning profits. Insurance adjusters will rush to deny liability whenever they can—even if it’s clear that their insured’s medical event caused them to lose control of their vehicle and crash into you.
One tactic insurers and attorneys representing them often employ in cases like this is a sudden medical emergency defense. They need only to prove the following to deny liability for a crash:
- They did not foresee the medical emergency coming
- They could not have reasonably known about their medical condition
- The medical emergency had a sudden, unexpected onset before the accident
- The driver took reasonable steps to avoid the accident
Let’s go over an example of how a motorist or insurer may apply this sudden medical emergency defense. Suppose a driver has a heart attack and veers off the road into oncoming traffic but still swerves back into their lane before hitting any other cars. A driver may be able to use the sudden medical emergency defense in such a case.
The “foreseeability” of the medical event is a critical factor in this type of case. This is why you don’t want to handle accident cases resulting from medical emergencies on your own. Instead, you should have a Stapp Law, LLC attorney sort out liability for you.
Options for Victims of Accidents Caused by Medical Emergencies
Unfortunately, accidents caused by medical emergencies result in injuries and other damages. If you have been injured in an accident caused by a driver who had a sudden medical emergency, you may wonder about your legal options.
You may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, but you should prepare for the outcome. For the case to be successful, you will need to prove that the driver was at fault for the accident. It can be challenging, especially if the driver can use the sudden medical emergency defense.
If the defense successfully proves their case, that can leave you with no source of recovery for your damages from legitimate car accident injuries or other losses. In this case, it could be unlawful for the court to order the at-fault driver to compensate you because they would not have been at fault.
It’s essential to speak to a Williamsport car accident lawyer before taking legal action. An attorney like one of ours at Stapp Law, LLC can review your case and determine whether you have a valid claim. We can also help you navigate the legal process if you appear to have a valid claim.
State Laws Are Crucial in Determining the Outcome of the Case
It’s also important to understand state law as it relates to the use of a “sudden medical emergency” defense. While many states don’t recognize this defense strategy for denying negligence in an auto accident case, Pennsylvania does. It sometimes refers to this defense as an adverse medical outcome.
As described earlier in this article, there’s also the no-fault car insurance system that exists in Pennsylvania that you must account for when pursuing damages in an auto accident case.
Where a Car Accident Attorney Figures Into Your Case
If you have been involved in an accident caused by a driver who had a sudden medical emergency, don’t hesitate to reach out to our attorneys at Stapp Law, LLC. We will assess your case and advise you on the best course of action.
A personal injury lawyer can help you by:
- Investigating the accident
- Gathering evidence
- Speaking to witnesses
- Determining who is liable for your injuries
- Filing a personal injury claim on your behalf
- Fighting for the compensation you deserve
The statute of limitations that applies to your case begins tolling the moment you get hurt. Don’t wait to get help.
Our experienced Williamsport, PA car accident lawyers have represented many clients injured by a driver who had a medical event. We are here to help you get the compensation you deserve. If you were the victim of such an accident or a driver was negligent despite their medical condition, we can help you. Contact us now.