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

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

If you have been in an accident, the driver may claim they had a sudden medical emergency. The sudden medical emergency defense may mean that the at-fault driver is not held liable for damages related to the accident.

To pursue your accident claim and recover the compensation, you need help understanding this complex area of the law, guidance on collecting the evidence you need to win your case, and assistance in dealing with insurance company lawyers. The car accident attorneys at Cochran Kroll & Associates, P.C. have the expertise to discuss your legal options and assist you with every step of your claim.

What is a Medical Emergency?

A sudden medical emergency can be defined as a medical event that is unforeseen and sudden which causes a loss of consciousness. A sudden medical emergency has been upheld as a defense to a claim for negligent auto accidents.

There are, however, conditions applied to this potential defense. These require the medical event to be wholly unexpected and not contributed to by the defendant’s conduct.

What Happens if I’m In Collision with Someone Having a Medical Emergency?

In the normal course of events, drivers have a duty of care to other drivers. This means they must not be negligent when driving. If they breach that duty of care and there is an accident, they will be held liable for all the consequences of their actions, including injuries and property damage.

If you are involved in an accident with a driver who uses the sudden medical emergency defense, you may be at some disadvantage. Several states, including Michigan, recognize a sudden medical emergency as a defense. A driver experiencing a sudden medical emergency may not be guilty of a breach of their duty of care and accordingly not liable for damages.

The reason for this defensive strategy is simply that if some unexpected or unforeseeable event debilitates the driver, they should not be made responsible for something they could not control.

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What is the Sudden Medical Defense?

The sudden emergency defense demands that a driver proves:

  • Before the accident, they suffered a sudden loss of consciousness.
  • The loss of consciousness was unforeseeable.
  • The driver lost control of the vehicle due to their unconscious state.

If a driver can prove all these factors, they may be absolved of liability for an accident.

There are, however, major hurdles to overcome when using this defense:

  • The suddenness of the emergency must be proved. If the driver has a heart attack or stroke, this may be an event that was sudden and not foreseeable. However, if they felt unwell before the accident, ignored the warning signs, and failed to pull over, the medical emergency would not be considered sudden.
    In the case of White v. Distributing Co, Michigan Supreme Court held that a sudden loss of consciousness could be used as a defense against a claim of negligence. They went on to say that the emergency had to be unforeseen. In that case, the defendant said that he had felt ill at a rest area before the accident. The court ruled that the emergency was not wholly unexpected and could not be considered sudden, and they found the defendant liable.
  • Foreseeability is an element of this defense that is examined carefully. If the defendant’s medical records show they have a history of medical conditions, such as heart issues or blood pressure problems, they will most likely be precluded from claiming a sudden medical emergency.
  • The accident must not be the result of the defendant’s actions. This particularly applies if the defendant was feeling unwell before the accident. Even if the accident happened only a few minutes after they started to feel unwell, that could lead to the court finding that the emergency was the result of the defendant’s conduct.

Does No-Fault Insurance Help?

Michigan’s no-fault Auto law will cover your medical bills, lost wages, and attendance allowance once you file a claim. This provides some personal injury protection in the event of auto accidents where a medical emergency defense is used successfully.

If the defendant is successful with the sudden medical emergency defense, you may have to resort to your car insurance or health insurance to cover your other losses.

Contact an Auto Accident Attorney for Legal Representation

If you have been in an auto accident involving a driver claiming a sudden medical emergency defense, you need an experienced law firm to help you understand the law and the complex legal processes to win your compensation claim. The car accident attorneys at Cochran Kroll Associates, P.C have the experience and knowledge to help you.

Our contingency fee basis means we only get paid if we win your case, so there is no financial risk to you to get started. Call our law firm today at 866-MICH-LAW and schedule your no-obligation, free case evaluation.

Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.

Thomas has a law degree from the University of Nottingham. He practiced law for 20 years before working in Dubai in the financial sector for 3 years. He now writes on financial and legal topics.



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