Who is Liable in an Accident Caused by a Medical Emergency at the Wheel?

Sometimes, car accidents are the result of a driver having a medical emergency at the wheel. For instance, a driver who suffers a heart attack, stroke, or seizure may lose control of his or her vehicle, leading to a serious accident.

In cases like this, can another injured driver or passenger recover damages from the motorist who lost control as a result of a medical condition?

This can be a tricky question to resolve. Liability will depend very heavily on whether the motorist who had the medical emergency was aware of his or her health condition or the medical risks involved in driving.

For instance, if the motorist had a history of health problems such as diabetes, or had previously suffered episodes of seizures or diabetic coma, the court may consider that the motorist was negligent with respect to his or her medical condition and choosing to drive anyway. In other words, driving while you are aware of a medical problem that could place you at risk of suffering a seizure or some other problem which increases the risk of an accident could make you liable for damages.

However, if a motorist was not aware of his medical condition, and could not possibly have known about the risk involved, he may not be liable for a claim. For instance, if a person suffers a sudden first heart attack at the wheel, and causes an accident, it is unlikely that he could successfully be held liable in a personal injury claim.

Establishing that the other motorist had knowledge of his medical condition, but chose to drive anyway, can be challenging. Medical records, which are normally confidential, would need to be obtained via the litigation process and reviewed by an expert. This is one of the areas where quality legal representation can make a huge impact on a recovery for damages.

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