Sometimes drivers cause car accidents because they suffered a heart attack, stroke or some other sudden medical emergency. These drivers or their insurance companies may claim they bear no liability for injuries and damages because of the medical crisis that occurred.
The argument may sound reasonable until you consider the possibility that the driver had an unreasonable risk of suffering a medical emergency while driving. This is something that can be investigated by an experienced lawyer.
Greg Monforton and Partner’s Windsor car accident lawyers help crash victims secure compensation for injuries and damages at no upfront cost. Below, we discuss liability for a sudden medical emergency accident on the road.
Call today to schedule your free initial legal consultation: (866) 320-4770.
Sudden Medical Emergencies Behind the Wheel
The phrase “sudden medical emergency” refers to the sudden onset of a life-threatening medical issue, like a heart attack, stroke, seizure or sudden unconsciousness (syncope). People who have been diagnosed with diabetes need to be careful about driving when their blood sugar drops too low, as they could become hypoglycemic and pass out.
People experiencing a sudden medical emergency often need immediate treatment to stabilize their condition and save their lives.
While the medical issue itself is life-threatening, the situation is even more dangerous if the person experiencing the problem is driving a car when it happens. Heart attacks, strokes and other medical emergencies are incapacitating, making it extremely difficult to maintain control of a moving vehicle.
If a driver causes a crash while experiencing a severe medical problem, it is only natural to blame the crash on the medical issue. This argument can be referred to as the sudden medical emergency defense.
When Might the Sudden Medical Emergency Defense Hold Up?
If someone had no reason to suspect a heart attack, stroke or other incapacitating medical issue while on the road, the sudden medical emergency defense might hold up.
It is important to note that the existence of a medical issue does not necessarily mean it was unsafe to drive. For example, the driver may have been healthy enough to drive if he or she was taking prescribed medication and not experiencing symptoms. The severity of the issue is also a consideration. Even if a driver previously had a heart attack, the risk of having another one may be relatively low.
It is important to note it is up to the at-fault driver to prove the sudden medical emergency defense.
Ontario Can Suspend Driver’s Licences for People with Certain Medical Conditions
Ontario requires doctors and nurses to report patients who have medical problems that make driving more dangerous.
According to provincial law (Ontario Regulation 340/94 14.1(3)), these medical issues include:
- Cognitive impairments that affect the patient’s attention, judgment, ability to solve problems, memory, insight and reaction time
- Sudden incapacitation, which refers to any medical issue that creates a high risk for sudden incapacitation or has a moderate or high risk of recurrence
- Sensory or motor impairment affecting coordination, muscle strength, muscle control, flexibility, touch or positional sense
- Visual impairment
- Substance use disorders, if the person does not comply with treatment recommendations
- Psychiatric illnesses that cause abnormalities of perception, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, neurocognitive disorders and stress-related disorders
The provincial government reviews the reports on these illnesses to determine if the driver’s licence should be suspended. They can request more information about the person’s condition, such as a functional assessment of the person’s condition by an occupational therapist.
Even if the person retains his or her licence after the medical condition has been reviewed, this may be contingent on following driving restrictions. For example, the driver may need to take certain medication, limit how often he or she drives, or not drive when experiencing certain symptoms.
How Can Your Lawyer Dispute a Sudden Medical Emergency Defense?
Your lawyer may be able to successfully dispute a sudden medical emergency defense. To do this, he or she would need to prove the driver should have known there was an unreasonable risk of a sudden medical problem while driving.
The at-fault driver should not be able to use the sudden medical emergency defense if his or her license was suspended for medical reasons.
However, even if the driver’s licence was not suspended, he or she may bear liability for a crash. For example, maybe the driver was not following the treatment plan prescribed by his or her doctor. The treatment plan could include taking certain medication or limiting the number of hours on the road. Failing to follow the treatment plan may have made it more likely for a sudden medical emergency to reoccur.
For example, if a driver is diabetic, his or her doctor may have prohibited driving during a hypoglycemic episode. The doctor may have also required the person to make sure they took their medication before getting behind the wheel.
An experienced lawyer may be able to obtain evidence about the driver’s medical issues and treatment plan.
Choosing Not To Drive or Getting Off the Road
Sometimes people are taking prescription medication that warns about drowsiness as a side effect. Patients should use caution with these medications, especially when they first start taking them. If the driver was feeling drowsy and did not get off the road or opt not to drive in the first place, the sudden medical emergency defense may not hold up.
Similarly, if the driver experienced symptoms of another medical emergency and he or she did not get off the road, the sudden medical emergency defense might not hold up. For example, maybe the driver was in the car with a friend or family member and he or she complained of symptoms of a heart attack, like:
- Feeling short of breath
- Squeezing pain in the chest
- Pain in the arms
- Jaw or neck pain
There may be a situation where a driver complained about symptoms of a stroke before experiencing a stroke and getting into a collision. Symptoms of a stroke may include:
- Drooping of your mouth on one side of your face
- Numbness in your face, arms or legs, especially if it is limited to one side of your body
- Severe headache
- Difficulty talking
If this is the first time something like that happened, there would have been no way for doctors to make a report to have the government suspend the driver’s licence. The at-fault driver may claim that this means it was truly a sudden medical emergency that could not have been anticipated. However, experiencing symptoms and not getting off the road could still make the driver liable for damages.
Is the Other Driver Claiming a Sudden Emergency? Call Greg Monforton and Partners
Are you getting treatment for injuries suffered in a Windsor, Ontario auto accident?
The other driver may be at fault for the crash that caused your injuries. If so, an experienced lawyer may be able to help you recover compensation to help pay for your medical care and other damages. We know compensation cannot change what occurred, but we have seen how important it is for those recovering from a serious collision.
Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation. Phone: (866) 320-4770.