Although determining negligence or fault in an Indiana motor vehicle accident is often clear cut, there are some cases where the facts are nebulous. For example, suppose your car is demolished in a head-on collision with a vehicle traveling in the wrong direction.
Surely that other driver is at fault. Surely the other driver’s insurance company will have no reason to hesitate in compensating you for your medical expenses, missed work, and totaled car.
Not so fast. If the other driver veered into your lane because of a medical condition, it is possible that he or she will not be found liable for the accident.
The Sudden Emergency Doctrine
The Indiana law covering this situation is called the sudden emergency doctrine. In order for the at-fault driver to be able to apply this doctrine, certain conditions must be met:
- The defendant did not contribute to or cause the accident.
- The danger confronting the defendant was so sudden (immediate) that it left no time to react or consider options.
- The defendant’s apprehension of the danger was reasonable.
You can probably see that this might occur in the case of black ice or someone slamming on the brakes in an on-ramp, but it can also be applied to medical emergencies.
Medical Injuries That Can Cause Car Accidents
Consider the types of medical emergencies that could cause a driver to lose control of a vehicle:
- Seizure: 69,500 people in Indiana are diagnosed with epilepsy. They are allowed to drive with Restriction 8 on their license if their condition is controlled with medication and if they have a signed doctor’s note. However, what if someone has a seizure who has never previously experienced one?
- Heart attack: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for all races and genders in Indiana. People with heart disease are at risk of suffering a heart attack.
- Stroke: Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in Indiana.
- Fainting: Many different conditions can cause fainting, but sometimes it can occur in an otherwise healthy individual.
- Dizziness: This can be caused by a myriad of conditions, including anemia, vertigo, and anxiety.
- Choking: Eating while driving is not a good idea, but people do it. Choking is a real hazard that may not leave a driver time to pull to the side of the road.
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar): The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists reported that about 19% of Americans with Type 2 diabetes had experienced hypoglycemia while driving.
- Adverse reaction to a medication: Not only prescribed medications but also OTC (over-the-counter) medications can affect a person’s driving ability.
- Night blindness: This condition often occurs because of changes in the eye that happen as people age, but not all drivers who are affected give up driving at night.
Medical Conditions and Negligence
Not all of these occurrences would automatically get the driver with the medical condition off the hook. An experienced attorney (not to mention the opposing insurance company) would seek to find if the medical condition could have been predicted.
- For example, if the driver blacked out due to hypoglycemia but was diabetic and had not eaten all day, that driver is liable.
- The driver would also be responsible for the accident if he reacted badly to a medication with warnings against operating heavy machinery. In this case, the driver was negligent because he did not act in a reasonable manner by heeding the directions.
- A driver who has a history of heart attacks and who has been cautioned by his doctor not to drive is clearly at fault.
- Someone who (possibly because of cataracts) cannot see to drive at night would have Restriction G on their driver’s license, so an accident caused by their lack of vision outside of daylight hours is their fault.
- However, a driver who becomes suddenly unconscious due to a heart attack with no warning signs would fall under the umbrella of the sudden emergency doctrine.
Any time there is any kind of doubt whatsoever about a driver’s possible negligence, insurance companies are bound to try to use that to their advantage. If you are involved in an accident with a driver who experienced a sudden medical condition, your insurance company will want to prove that the other driver was negligent in some way and that the emergency could have been foreseen. The other driver’s insurance company will try to prove that the emergency could not possibly have been foreseen and therefore, no fault can be proven.
Crossen Law Firm Can Help
These are difficult situations for all parties concerned. If you have been involved in an accident caused by the sudden onset of a medical condition, either your own or the other driver’s, rely on Crossen Law Firm to fight for your rights.
At Crossen Law Firm, we have decades of experience helping car crash victims get the compensation they deserve after they have suffered injuries at the hands of a negligent driver. Our Indianapolis car accident attorney is a dedicated advocate for seriously injured people. Our aim is to effectively and completely handle the legal process for you as you focus on recovering from your injuries.
With over 20 years of experience and millions of dollars awarded in compensation to our clients, our Indianapolis personal injury lawyer understands how to best help you obtain a favorable outcome for your situation. Get started on your case today by scheduling a free consultation about your situation. Call 317-401-8626 or contact us online.