This post was originally published in February 2018. It has since been updated with new information and was most recently updated on November 6, 2020.
Knowledgeable Legal Team Handling Auto Accidents
In most auto accidents, the issue of fault is straightforward. For example, the other driver ran a red light. In other situations, the “at-fault” driver may suffer a medical emergency right before the accident. In this instance, the case is not as straightforward.
Car accidents have numerous intricacies. When an accident is not caused by outright negligence – such as rear-ending someone because the driver is too busy texting – the issue of determining fault is more complicated.
A pre-existing medical condition may cause a motor vehicle accident, such as a cardiac condition that leads to a driver having a heart attack behind the wheel. When medical conditions affect a person’s reactions or body and make it unsafe for them to operate a vehicle, they could still be negligent if they cause an accident.
However, it comes down to whether they knew about the medical condition, the medical condition was a risk of causing an accident, and if the situation resulted from a medical emergency.
How Car Insurance Plays into an Accident Victim’s Ability to Recover
Under Kentucky law, all motorists need to purchase car insurance to drive legally. Specifically, you must obtain at least the following coverage to comply with the terms of the law:
- Bodily injury liability: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident; and
- Property damage liability: $25,000 per accident.
- In the alternative, you can obtain a policy with a single combined limit of $60,000.
Unlike many other states, Kentucky is a choice no-fault state. This means that the default way an accident victim will recover for their injuries is to file a claim with their own insurance company – not the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. However, motorists can choose to reject no-fault coverage. If they do, then they can pursue a Louisville personal injury claim against an at-fault driver.
However, even if you accept no-fault coverage, there are exceptions that will allow an accident victim to pursue a claim against the at-fault driver. Specifically, an accident victim can bypass filing a claim with their own insurance company in the following situations:
- The accident results in medical bills of $1,000 or more; or
- The accident results in permanent disfigurement, certain broken bones, or any permanent injury.
If an accident fits into either of these categories, you can pursue a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. However, you will need to establish that the driver was legally negligent before being able to recover compensation for your injuries.
The Issue of Fault in a Louisville Auto Accident Caused by Medical Conditions
Most states recognize that sudden medical emergencies happen, and if an auto accident occurs during these situations, the person should not be liable for the accident. However, the driver must have an unforeseeable medical emergency that caused the crash.
What is “unforeseeable” and what constitutes something that the driver could have predicted?
Today, we will discuss the differences and how they play a role in an accident case.
Contact Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC
or by calling 502-791-9000.
Who Is at Fault for an Accident?
When an accident happens, the fault is assigned by which party was negligent. However, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to assigning fault. Every accident and case is unique, and a variety of factors can swing fault one way or another. A medical condition may impact the severity of a crash, but may not be the cause.
A drivers’ impairment when it comes to a medical condition comes down to the role that medical conditions played in the accident. Severe impairment, such as an epileptic seizure, would require that the courts consider the illness at-fault and the driver negligent for not preventing their illness from causing an accident.
Is the Medical Condition Known or Unknown?
If a person does not know they have a medical condition, they could not be at fault for an accident if their medical condition caused the crash.
For example, a person has an undiagnosed heart condition, and they did not know that they were at-risk. While on the highway they suffer a massive heart attack which causes them to blackout and cause an accident.
In this case, the driver did not know they were a risk to the safety of others, and they did not know there was a risk they would pass out at the wheel.
This situation is a sudden medical emergency.
How Does a Sudden Medical Emergency Defense Work?
A sudden medical emergency defense means the driver suffered from an unforeseeable medical event that led to the accident. If the court finds the facts fit the claim of an unforeseeable medical event, a judge would not hold them responsible for the accident because the cause was out of their control.
The requirements for this defense varies depending on where you live, but the defendant must prove:
- that they suddenly lost consciousness before the accident;
- the loss of consciousness caused the driver to lose control of his or her vehicle; and
- the loss of consciousness was the result of an unforeseeable medical emergency.
Contact Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC
or by calling 502-791-9000.
Did the Driver Suffer Symptoms?
If the driver suffered symptoms before the accident, one could argue that the onset of a medical emergency was likely. A reasonable person would pull over before reaching the point of unconsciousness. Therefore, if the driver experienced symptoms and failed to pull over, they would be responsible for the accident.
A sudden medical emergency requires that the driver have no symptoms or warnings that they are about to lose consciousness or that a medical emergency is coming on.
How Foreseeable Was the Risk?
Another issue your attorney will look at is whether the risk of unconsciousness or a medical emergency was likely.
For example, a person who has no history of heart issues, but has a sudden heart attack while driving may succeed with such a defense strategy.
On the other hand, if the driver has a history of heart problems, and they have been told by their physician not to drive, they cannot use this defense strategy. Also, a driver with a history of heart conditions who fail to take their medication and then suffers a heart attack would still be liable.
Not All States Allow Sudden Medical Emergency Defenses
Luckily, not all states allow sudden medical emergency defenses. In Kentucky, there is the “blackout” defense. In this case, it is an affirmative defense only if the defendant can demonstrate that they became suddenly incapacitated while driving and the accident was a direct result of that blackout. They must prove that the sudden blackout was not foreseeable (Rogers v. Wilhelm-Olsen).
Who Pays If the Accident Was a Sudden Medical Emergency?
Even if you are in an accident and the driver succeeds with a sudden medical emergency defense, you still have options for receiving compensation. Your car insurance policy is there to protect you in instances just like this. You can use your coverage to pay for medical costs, property damage, and lost wages – after you pay your share of the deductible.
Getting Help for an Accident Caused by a Sudden Medical Emergency
If you have been injured in an accident and the at-fault party is claiming a sudden medical emergency, it is imperative that you hire a personal injury attorney. An attorney can help you deal with your insurance company, but also investigate and make certain that the at-fault party did not play a role in the accident or have a foreseeable risk.
For your injuries, schedule a consultation with the Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC. You can request a free, no-obligation consultation now at 502-791-9000 or request more information online.