Who’s Liable for a Car Accident Due to a Medical Emergency?

Jun 13, 2021 Car Accidents

Posted by: Kisling, Nestico & Redick, LLC

Some car accidents are indeed unavoidable. But careless drivers and their insurance companies claim that crashes were unavoidable far too often. They do this to withhold compensation from car crash victims like you.

A collision caused by a medical emergency is one instance of a so-called unavoidable crash. However, if the driver who caused the crash had passed out, how could they avoid the crash?

This defense to car accident lawsuits often works in Ohio. But not always. There are exceptions to this, but you should work with an experienced Ohio car accident lawyer.

Sudden Medical Emergency Defense

Ohio is among many states that allow the sudden medical emergency defense in personal injury claims. Put simply driver is not liable for a car crash they cause due to a medical emergency. For example, the driver could have been driving on the wrong side of the road. They could have been speeding. They even could have been texting. But if they had a medical emergency, they may not be at fault.

How Insurers Use the Medical Emergency Defense Against Victims

Sadly, insurers have found that this defense can relieve them of their responsibility to compensate car accident victims. If they can use the sudden medical emergency defense in your case, you may not be able to recover compensation from the at-fault driver or their insurance policy.

But there is another effect. It can create a situation in which your own insurer may not compensate you, either.

When a driver injures you but does not have proper insurance coverage, you often can file a claim with your uninsured or underinsured motorist policy. But when the driver does have insurance but is not liable due to a medical emergency, what happens?

Many insurers see such cases as a chance to avoid compensating their own policyholders. But, unfortunately, that potentially leaves you with nothing after a severe car accident.

Ohio Supreme Court Challenge

This sparked a challenge that made it to the Ohio Supreme Court in 2003. The victims of a serious car crash were seeking compensation from the estate of a man who had died after a heart attack while driving. During the heart attack, his car went out of control and hit the victims.

But the Supreme Court upheld the ruling. That means nothing changed. The court based its decision in part on the idea that negligence involves acting unreasonably. For example, the court said causing a car crash isn’t unreasonable when a medical emergency has occurred.

Was the Medical Emergency Foreseeable?

There is some good news. There are times when a medical emergency does not fall under this defense. The key is to look at whether the emergency was truly sudden.

Having a seizure with no history of such health events is sudden. That means it is not foreseeable. But what about someone who was prescribed a new drug that can cause seizures? If their doctor warned them of the possible side effect, a seizure might have been foreseeable. In such a case, the victim of the crash might be able to recover compensation.

Here are some other instances when a medical emergency might be foreseeable:

  • A doctor told someone with heart problems not to drive
  • Someone with diabetes did not eat all day and passed out
  • Someone was having chest pain, shortness of breath and decided to drive to the hospital

There are many cases in which a medical problem while driving might not be considered sudden. A car accident lawyer can help you show that the person who caused your crash did not have a “sudden” medical emergency so that you can recover compensation.

Injured in a Car Accident Caused by a Medical Emergency?

The sudden medical emergency defense can be a difficult hurdle. But an experienced lawyer can give you the best chance of overcoming it and recovering what you need. To discuss your case with a lawyer at Kisling, Nestico & Redick, schedule a free consultation.

Call 1-800-HURT-NOW or contact us online.

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