The thought of a car or truck crashing into your home while you sleep at night is horrifying, but while these things do happen, they don’t happen very often. Over 60 car-on-concrete accidents occur each day throughout the country, which isn’t much compared to typical car-on-car or car-on-truck accidents. Many of these are caused by intoxicated drivers, and, unless you are San Jose resident Ray Minter, you probably won’t experience one of these freak accidents in your lifetime, or at least it is highly unlikely you will experience one more than once. But what happens when the driver behind the wheel of the car that crashes into your home or office building is not intoxicated but suffering from a sudden medical emergency? Who is to blame? Who pays for damages?
Sudden Medical Emergencies Cause Wrecks
Cars colliding with buildings cause at least 10 serious personal injuries per day, resulting in millions of dollars’ worth of property damage and medical bills. While most of these accidents are due to negligence, at times they are caused by a sudden lack of consciousness from several health conditions the driver may not even know he has. Things like diabetes, heart attack, stroke, syncopal episodes, and seizures can all occur spontaneously, at the worst possible time. A sudden cramp on one’s legs or fingers can also spark a knee-jerk reaction that can cause a crash.
Diabetics are susceptible to bouts of hypoglycemia, or abnormally low blood sugar. Symptoms come about suddenly and can include shakiness, nervousness, sweating and chills, irritability, confusion, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, fatigue, lack of coordination, seizures and unconsciousness. Driving while diabetic can be a serious problem if the driver is not careful about monitoring his condition.
Syncope is a temporary loss of consciousness that occurs suddenly and for a short period of time, for apparently no reason. It comes from a decrease in blood flow to the brain which is the result of low blood pressure. A person can quickly pass out and recover, although if the person is driving while passing out, the car can easily speed into a nearby building, traffic light, or other cars on the road and cause tremendous property damage and traumatic injuries. Syncope is nearly impossible to diagnose, so it is almost impossible for doctors to advise their patients against driving if they are susceptible to this condition.
Those with epilepsy have a history of seizure periods during which they should not drive. Several states place restrictions on epileptic drivers, allowing them to drive during seizure-free periods, which are difficult to pinpoint. These periods typically last from 3 to 12 months.
Like extreme weather events, sudden medical emergencies are protected in most states by the “act of God” defense due to their unpredictability.
The “Sudden Medical Emergency” Defense
Unlike drinking way too much or doing drugs, a sudden medical emergency cannot be prevented. To prove that a driver was truly experiencing a sudden medical emergency, the driver must demonstrate three things to the court to establish a credible defense:
- The suddenness of the loss of consciousness
- That loss of consciousness was responsible for the loss of control behind the wheel
- The loss of consciousness was caused by an “unforeseeable medical emergency”
The suddenness of the emergency is crucial. If the driver experienced symptoms before the accident occurred, he or she should have pulled over until calling an ambulance or feeling well again; at least, it is assumed this is what a “reasonable person” would do under a similar circumstance. If it can be shown that the driver experienced symptoms and ignored the symptoms to continue getting where he was going, the emergency can no longer be considered “sudden.”
Those with a history of medical conditions that can be dangerous behind the wheel or those who have previousy caused accidents due to the onset of such a condition cannot claim the sudden medical emergency defense. In addition, drivers advised against driving by physicians will be considered negligent.
How does Insurance Cover Sudden Medical Emergencies?
Oregon car insurance policies by law are a cross between “fault” and “no fault.” Personal injury protection is a required aspect of all insurance policies, which protect drivers regardless of who was at fault, which can be impossible to prove in cases of sudden medical emergency. Seeing as how Oregon is a “fault” state that has some “no fault’ provisions mixed in, traditional policies allow drivers to sue each other when they cannot agree on who was at fault and what kind of damages should be awarded. Most Oregonians seek help from an experienced car accident attorney to explore their legal options. Contact RizkLaw today for a free legal consultation if you’ve been hurt in such an event.