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When a Medical Condition Causes a Car Accident

Jason Reese

Out of the hundreds of thousands of car accidents each year, there are many in which fault is relatively easy to discover and assign. Drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, those who are driving recklessly, and those who fail to obey traffic laws are usually at least partially at-fault; however, what does it mean when a car accident is caused by a driver impaired by a medical condition? The cases are rarely simple in any way.

Some estimates place the number of accidents related to a pre-existing medical condition at about twenty percent of all accidents. These medical conditions might include health issues like seizure disorders, diabetes, or problems with eyesight. The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles can place a restriction (Restriction 8) on a driver’s license or learners permit to indicate a medical condition, giving some clue that a driver may take “medication in order to control seizures or fainting spells, or that the driver has an existing medical condition which may cause him or her to appear intoxicated.” There may also be restrictions on driving at night or a ban on driving on interstates.

Several factors may play a role in determining a driver’s fault is he or she caused an accident as a result of a pre-existing medical condition. In determining fault, a judge is likely to look at whether or not the driver knew about the pre-existing health condition and if so, whether he or she was intentionally negligent in failing to properly monitor or care for themselves in order to protect others. Other key pieces of information might include how much the condition contributed to the crash, the severity of the condition, injuries, and property damage.

The Sudden Emergency Doctrine

An effective defense may come in the guise of the Sudden Emergency Doctrine, which in Indiana states a driver’s loss of consciousness must be shown by a preponderance of the evidence to have happened without warning or in a manner which precluded the driver from taking appropriate precautions.

In short, the legal responsibility is apt to be much higher for someone who has a known seizure disorder and has failed to maintain medications necessary to avoid seizures than for a driver who has a sudden heart attack with no prior knowledge of heart disease. Even so, the specifics of each case are important, and there are few absolute answers when it comes to these types of accidents. What of diabetics who become suddenly hypoglycemic, causing impaired judgment and reaction times? Such cases have been resolved in different ways, depending on the other details present.

Have you or a loved one been injured in a car crash caused by a driver impaired by a medical condition or by the use of drugs or alcohol? If so, the vehicular accident attorneys at Wagner Reese can help you recover from your injuries and get back on the road to both physical and financial recovery. Call us today for a FREE consultation at (888) 204-8440.


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