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When we think about someone causing a car crash, we think of them running a red light or speeding, however, sometimes the cause is something out of their control—like a medical emergency. What happens then? Is the person who had the emergency still at fault?

One Dead Three Injured in Medical Emergency Crash Near Moses Lake

For example, on Friday, December 6, 2019, one person died and three others were injured following a head-on collision near Moses Lake. According to a Grand County Sherriffs deputy, the accident happened when a 75-year-old man was driving eastbound on Road 7-N.E. near Road K-N.E. when he suffered a medical emergency and crossed over the centerline and into oncoming traffic.

The driver of the oncoming car and two of his passengers were injured and transported to a local hospital, and the 75-year-old was also transported to the hospital where he later died of his injuries.

Fault in a Medical Emergency Crash

In Washington state, when a person suffers a medical emergency which then causes an accident where someone else is injured, the driver might not be legally at fault. Why? Because the injured person has to prove that the driver was negligent which requires a certain level of intent such as carelessness or recklessness.

However,  if the driver is not in control of his or her actions due to a medical emergency, then the driver can’t be considered careless or reckless and thus is not negligent. For this defense to be successful, the driver must prove:

  1. He or she suddenly lost consciousness before the accident occurred, and
  2. The loss of consciousness caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle, and
  3. The loss of consciousness was caused by an unforeseeable medical emergency.


For this to be proved, the driver must have been unaware that a condition existed that could cause them to be unconscious. For example, a 25-year-old driver who never had a history of blacking out wouldn’t be on notice of any condition that might cause them to go unconscious. However, a 70-year-old man with a history of heart attacks can’t say the same thing.

Who Pays When a Medical Emergency is Present?

An unfortunate aspect of this doctrine is that sometimes the injured person will receive no compensation. If the law doesn’t hold the driver responsible, then the driver’s insurance company will not have to pay compensation.

The injured might be able to make a claim against their own insurance if they have uninsured and underinsured motorist’s coverage on their policy. This coverage is not mandatory in Washington state but is offered by the insurance carriers that operate in the state. It pays out for your own losses that aren’t covered by another’s insurance when they came from an auto accident—regardless of who is at fault.

Thus in a medical emergency, if the law determined that the at-fault driver wasn’t responsible, then the injured’s own UM/UIM will pay for the injuries and financial losses.

Contact a Spokane Car Accident Lawyer.

Established in Spokane in 1948, Crary, Clark, Domanico, & Chuang, P.S. is committed to providing our clients with the absolute highest quality legal representation. If our Spokane Car Accident Lawyers represent you for your accident case, you have our assurance that we will use our absolute best efforts to win your case. Contact us after any accident resulting in a serious injury for a free, confidential consultation and case evaluation. We will only offer you advice which is in your best interest.

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