Who May be Liable for an Accident Caused by a Medical Emergency?

Posted on behalf of James Lynch on March 26, 2021  in Car Accident News. Updated on February 24, 2022

medical emergency car accidentA heart attack, stroke or seizure could happen at any time, even while someone is driving. This may be the most dangerous time for a medical emergency like this to arise. The victim could easily lose control of his or her vehicle and cause a dangerous crash. The accident could be fatal for the driver and others involved.

If you were injured in a crash, would you still be able to seek compensation for your damages? What if the other driver says fault cannot be pinned on him or her because of a medical emergency?

These are just a couple of reasons why you should strongly consider speaking to an experienced car accident attorney in New Jersey. Below the attorneys from Lynch Law Firm, PC discuss liability for crashes involving sudden medical emergencies and how victims of these crashes may be eligible to seek compensation.

How do You Define a Sudden Medical Emergency?

A sudden medical emergency is an unforeseen medical event that could pose a risk to a person’s life. Usually, the medical episode causes the person to lose consciousness. Examples include:

  • Stroke
  • Seizure
  • Heart attack
  • Hypoglycemic event

While anyone can suffer a medical emergency at any time due to a variety of illnesses or conditions, it may be difficult to use this as a defense to avoid being held liable for damages that occur. The person who suffered the medical emergency has the burden of proof. He or she must show the incident could not have been predicted.

For example, a person who has never experienced any symptoms of heart failure or been diagnosed with a heart condition could not predict he or she would suffer a heart attack. This person might not be held liable for damages that occurred in a crash that happened during this medical episode.

On the other hand, if the driver has a well-documented history of heart issues and a doctor has advised against driving, the driver could be held liable for the crash.

What Does New Jersey Law Say About Sudden Emergencies?

The Garden State allows a driver to invoke the Sudden Emergency Doctrine (SED) as a defense to deny liability only in situations where a driver is confronted by an imminent situation over which he or she had no control, without fault on his or her part.

While this defense does not specifically exclude medical emergencies, there is no legal precedent in which a medical emergency was invoked under this doctrine and therefore, there is no case law to say how the courts would rule on such a defense.

In general, the SED is not viewed favorably by the courts due to New Jersey’s comparative negligence laws. If a driver invokes a sudden emergency as a defense against liability, it may be provided to a jury for consideration if reasonable care was taken under the circumstances.

For example, if a person began feeling symptoms associated with a heart attack or stroke and chose not to pull off onto the side of the road, the defense might not hold up before a jury. In this situation, the driver should have taken precautions to avoid an accident.

Can Drivers with Disabilities Invoke this Defense?

As a sudden emergency is unforeseen or unexpected, a driver who suffers from a disability may not be able to invoke the SED to deny liability for an accident. This is because a handicapped person is aware of a condition that could potentially cause a medical episode in which he or she loses consciousness or control of a vehicle.

Options for Victims of Medical Emergency Accidents

If the other driver’s sudden emergency defense is successful, you might still be able to recover compensation for your medical costs through New Jersey’s no-fault insurance laws.

Regardless of who is at fault for an accident, your Personal Injury Protection insurance policy should cover your medical costs. Be sure to call the Lynch Law Firm, PC before you speak to your insurance adjuster, so you know what to expect.

Let Us Review Your Claim. Call Today

At Lynch Law Firm, PC, we understand the complexities of the legal system. We also know that insurance companies often look for ways to deny liability for an accident. We have a proven track record of securing compensation from insurance companies, even when they try to deny liability.

Our attorneys offer a free consultation to review your claim. Should you choose to hire us, we will not charge you any upfront fees and you only pay us a percentage of your compensation if we win your case.

No fees. No risks. Call today: (800) 518-0508

* Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances.

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