In some circumstances, an accident victim contacts a Fayetteville car accident lawyer and presents a puzzling situation. The at-fault driver denies liability in a car accident because they claim that they suffered a medical emergency.
This is, indeed, a complex issue because, if the other driver is right, then they cannot be accused of negligence. However, since it is such a convenient way of walking away from responsibility for someone’s injuries and economic damages, the medical emergency defense is often abused.
You will need an experienced Fayetteville car accident lawyer in this circumstance because the at-fault driver’s insurance company will jump at the opportunity to deny your claim. They will believe their client without doing their due diligence to prove that they are exempt from liability in a car accident on these grounds.
Fortunately, the law says that you can still pursue a case and the other driver must defend their claim of being suddenly incapacitated.
What Does Georgia Law Say on the Topic of Medical Emergency?
A sudden illness is defined as “an act of God” in the Official Code of Georgia 1-3-3(3). The definition further clarifies that such an act “excludes all idea of human agency” In other words, as your Fayetteville car accident lawyer will explain to you, there is no question of invoking a person’s negligence if a sudden illness caused them to crash their car into yours.
However, there are other laws and rules which apply in determining liability in a car accident or other personal injury case. For example, a person who invokes an epileptic seizure as the main cause of the accident must prove that they had the right to drive.
In Georgia, the law states that a person with epilepsy may obtain a license:
- For cars and trucks weighing less than 26,000 pounds
- If they were seizure-free for six months.
In situations when the person only has seizures at night, they may be issued a limited license for daylight driving, even if they were seizure-free for less than six months. Moreover, the Department of Motor Vehicles may require the patient to submit regular medical reports as a condition for issuing the license.
The Driver Invoking the Medical Emergency Has the Burden of Proof
One particular aspect in determining liability in a car accident allegedly caused by a medical emergency is that the driver invoking this exemption has the burden of proof. What does it mean? As any Fayetteville car accident lawyer knows, in personal injury cases the plaintiff must prove that the other party breached their duty of care and caused their injuries and economic damages.
When a medical emergency is invoked as an exemption from liability, the person invoking it (the defendant) must demonstrate the existence of this condition. This is extremely useful because the injured person and their lawyer do not have to do extra work in winning the case.
So, Can a Driver Be Exempt from Liability for a Car Accident Caused by a Medical Emergency?
The answer in these situations is not clear-cut. As much as insurance companies would like it, a medical emergency is not always a defense against liability for bodily injury and economic damages. Here are some things to consider.
1. The Driver Was Aware of Their Medical Condition
As explained above, drivers with epilepsy have the right to drive under specific conditions. Failure to meet them makes them ineligible to hold a driving license. Thus, the driver is clearly both in breach of the law and aware that they were likely to experience a medical emergency.
The same judgment applies to other medical conditions, such as failing eyesight or chronic and degenerative diseases. A Fayetteville car accident lawyer can prove that the driver is not entitled to the sudden medical emergency defense.
2. The Driver Took Medication that Resulted in Diminished Reflexes
Some medications come with warnings that one should not operate vehicles and heavy machinery after taking them. Anti-anxiety medication is definitely one of these. Thus, even if the condition itself does not generate a medical emergency situation, the prescription medication taken to control it could cause a driver to become impaired and cause a crash.
In this instance, the sudden medical emergency defense is not applicable and does not exempt the driver from liability for the car accident. They should have known that they must not drive after taking the medication.
3. The Driver Suffered a Genuine Unexpected Medical Emergency
Finally, it is quite possible that the at-fault driver experienced a real and unforeseeable medical emergency. A stroke or a heart attack is impossible to predict and can affect apparently healthy people. Unfortunately, we all live more stressful lives than our parents and grandparents. As a consequence, these sudden potentially fatal emergencies happen even to young people – in their 20s and 30s.
In this case, your Fayetteville car accident lawyer will tell you that the driver truly has no liability for a car accident. There is no element of negligence in being suddenly taken ill and unable to control a vehicle.
What Are Your Options of Recovery in These Cases?
If the driver’s claim of experiencing a medical emergency does not hold water, your lawyer will pursue the accident claim with their insurance company. If the insurer continues to believe their client’s assertions and denies your claim, the Fayetteville car accident lawyer will advise you to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver.
In some cases, you may file a lawsuit against the driver’s treating doctor:
- If the doctor knew that the person was unfit to drive and failed to report it
- If the doctor did not warn their patients that the prescribed medication can impair their driving abilities
- If the doctor failed to submit a periodical report for a patient with epilepsy.
You May Recover Damages From Your Own Optional Insurance Coverage
Drivers in Georgia have the option to purchase optional PIP and MedPay insurance for their own protection. If the other driver truly has no liability for a car accident, this is the only option for recovering your economic damages.
This is one of the reasons why it is a good idea to go beyond the minimum insurance requirements. Not all accidents are caused by another driver’s negligence. While these cases are rare, they do happen. And there is nothing a Fayetteville car accident lawyer can do if you do not have optional insurance coverage.
An Experienced Fayetteville Car Accident Law Firm Can Help You!
If you are not sure whether the other driver has liability for a car accident in which you suffered injuries and economic damages, come to Wade Law. We will examine the medical records submitted by the other driver and determine whether they had a sudden emergency or they were aware of the potential risk to become impaired behind the wheel.
If your case has merits, our Fayetteville accident lawyers will help you file a claim or a lawsuit and recover your damages, either from the at-fault driver or from your own insurer. Schedule a free case review as soon as possible!