Sometimes, medical events cause accidents. Usually, when a person causes an accident, they’re typically legally responsible for the damages that they create. However, when a medical event causes the crash, sorting out legal responsibility may not be so clear. Here’s what you need to know about medical condition car accidents from our Las Vegas car accident attorneys.
Medical Condition Car Accidents
Medical conditions lead to car accidents every day. The driver who suffers from a medical condition may or may not be responsible for a car accident. It depends on whether or not the medical condition was foreseeable. A sudden medical emergency may excuse the person who causes the crash from legal liability.
What Is a Sudden Medical Emergency Defense?
A sudden medical emergency defense is a legal excuse for causing an accident. When an unforeseeable medical event occurs, the person who causes the accident may not be legally liable for the accident. For the defense to apply, the medical event must genuinely be unpredicted.
The Contribution of Medical Conditions to Passenger Vehicle Crashes
Liability for car accidents is based on negligence. The person who fails to exercise sufficient care in their driving is the person who is legally liable for the accident. When an accident occurs, one driver, both drivers or neither driver may have legal liability. Typically, when an accident occurs, the person who makes a driving error is legally responsible for the damages that result.
However, when a medical condition leads to an accident, the person who suffers from the medical event may not be truly negligent. They may have driven the car with no idea that a medical event was about to occur. When a medical event is truly unplanned, the person who it happens to is not legally liable for the car accident. The person must not have time to react to their condition before the accident occurs.
Medical Episodes and the Sudden Emergency Doctrine
The medical condition defense for car accidents is part of the sudden emergency doctrine. The sudden emergency doctrine is a defense to tort liability. It says that where a person would otherwise be liable for negligence, a sudden emergency means that the person’s behavior is legally excusable. When a person talks about a medical episode as an excuse for a car accident, they’re applying the sudden emergency doctrine to a car accident case.
Standards for the Sudden Emergency Medical Defense
For the sudden emergency medical defense to apply, the following conditions must be present:
- There must be a medical condition or event happening at the time of the accident.
- It must be a sudden emergency. The person affected must not have time to react to the emergency.
- The medical condition may not be foreseeable.
If a person has a known medical condition, they must take care to only drive when they are safe to do so. When a person can anticipate that a medical event may occur, they can’t escape legal liability if they choose to get behind the wheel anyway. The sudden emergency defense only works when an emergency is truly a surprise event that the driver doesn’t see coming.
Example of a Sudden Emergency Defense for a Car Accident
In 2010, the Nevada Supreme Court discussed sudden emergencies and car accidents in the Posas v. Horton case. In the Posas case, a pedestrian was jaywalking through an intersection. A driver slammed on their brakes to avoid the pedestrian. A second driver slammed into the first vehicle from behind. The car accident victim sought to blame the driver in the back for the accident. They accused the driver of following too close and not leaving enough stopping distance to avoid the collision.
The second driver raised the sudden emergency defense. They said that the jaywalking pedestrian created a sudden emergency. They asked the jury to excuse their liability because of the emergency situation created by the jaywalker.
However, the court rejected the argument. The court said that the sudden emergency defense only applies when the actor is otherwise exercising reasonable care. In the case of the driver in the back, they contributed to the accident by following too close to the vehicle in front.
The court went on to say that for the sudden emergency defense to apply, the person must be placed in a position of peril that is not caused by their own negligence. They must be acting as a reasonable and prudent person. The sudden event must be an unforeseeable change in conditions, and it must surround the actor trying to use the defense. In addition, you cannot create your own emergency.
In the Posas case, the driver in back admitted that they followed to close to the vehicle in front. While the court said that the jaywalking woman might have also been negligent, the woman in the back was the negligent driver. The court rejected the sudden emergency defense in the Posas case because the driver was negligent and because there was no unforeseen event that impacted them personally.
Who Proves the Sudden Emergency Defense in a Car Accident Case?
If the defense wants to use the sudden emergency defense in a car accident case, it’s up to them to prove it. They must raise the issue in their court documents. It’s the defendant’s burden to convince the jury that a medical event happened, that it was unforeseeable, and that it was the cause of the accident. As the accident victim, you can present evidence to refute their version of events. But it’s ultimately up to the defendant to prove the medical emergency if they raise it as a defense to a car accident case.
Contact Our Nevada Attorneys for Car Accidents
Have you been in a car accident? Is a medical condition or event an issue in the case? We can help. At Adam S. Kutner & Associates, we represent car accident victims of all kinds. If you’re involved in a case where a medical condition or event may be a question, our team of legal professionals can provide aggressive, professional legal representation that gets results.
Our consultations are always free. Let’s talk about how we can help you get the justice that you deserve. Call us today.