After an April 2018 crash in Spokane Valley Washington, someone asked us about liability and medical conditions.
According to KXLY, 8 people were transported from the accident scene and at least 1 had critical injuries. News reports said that the crash “was caused by a medical condition”.
Auto accidents caused by medical conditions
As per the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) incidences of motor vehicle crashes that are caused by medical conditions while driving are somewhat unusual. While it reports that medical conditions only account for about 1.3 percent of all accidents, older drivers have higher incidences of being in accidents that were caused by medical conditions or emergencies as opposed to young and middle-age drivers. The NHTSA also found that 84 percent of the drivers in crashes that were caused by a medical event experienced seizures, blackouts or diabetic reactions immediately before the crash. Two other conditions that can cause a sudden medical emergency behind the wheel are strokes and heart attacks.
Using a Medical Condition as a Defense
The State of Washington allows a driver to raise the sudden medical emergency defense in the event of an accident. If that defense is successfully raised, it will preclude an innocent accident victim from receiving compensation for damages that were suffered as a result of an accident. That might seem like a harsh rule, so to invoke the sudden medical emergency defense, Washington courts have set strict requirements. First, the driver raising the defense must not have known that he or she might lose consciousness or control of the vehicle. Second, the sudden medical emergency must have caused the driver to lose all ability to follow the normal standard of care that’s expected by a driver.
Overcoming the Defense
When a driver raises the sudden medical emergency defense, his or her liability insurance company might have a valid legal basis for denying your damages claim. You might even be precluded from bringing an uninsured motorist claim through your own insurer. That’s because your own insurance company is permitted to raise the same defense as the other driver. Here’s how we might approach the situation in a case involving serious injuries or death. First, we need to obtain information from the driver who is raising the sudden medical emergency defense. In order to obtain that information, a lawsuit would likely be filed against him or her. That allows us access to appropriate information along with the driver’s medical records. If we find a medical history of a condition that the driver knew or should have known can cause a sudden loss of control or consciousness, we’re probably in a position to overcome the sudden medical emergency defense. If necessary, we can have those records reviewed by an independent physician. We can even ask the court to have the driver examined by that physician.
Injured in Washington or Idaho?
If you’ve been injured in an accident, and a sudden medical emergency defense has been raised, contact our offices right away to arrange for a free consultation and case evaluation. Don’t worry about bringing a checkbook either. If we enter into a retainer agreement with you, we don’t even get paid unless we obtain a settlement or verdict for you. We want to see you receive full compensation for your injuries.