Can a Defendant Be Held Liable if They Had a Medical Emergency?

In Arizona (and throughout the United States at-large), if you’ve been injured in a car accident due to the fault of another party, then you may be entitled to significant damages as compensation for your losses.

What you may not realize, however, is that your ability to recover could be affected by the defendant’s unique circumstances and impairments.  For example, though the defendant-driver may have crashed into your vehicle, if they were experiencing a sudden medical emergency at the time of the accident, then they may be able to avoid liability for your injuries.

The sudden medical emergency defense can be confusing, so we’ll explore some of the basics to clarify how it works.

Basics of the Sudden Medical Emergency Defense

In order for the defendant-driver to take advantage of the sudden medical emergency defense and successfully avoid liability, they must show that:

  1. They suddenly lost consciousness, or experienced some other medical emergency symptoms that caused them to lose control over their vehicle; and
  2. The medical emergency at-issue was sudden and unforeseeable.

Let’s take a closer look at these two elements.

Loss of Control

The defendant-driver cannot make use of the sudden medical emergency defense if they did not lose control over their vehicle at the time of the accident.  If the defendant was merely impaired, for example, but could still exercise a sufficient level of control that they could have avoided the collision, then they can be held liable for the resultant injuries.

Events Were Sudden and Unforeseeable

A medical emergency that was “foreseeable” cannot shield the defendant-driver from liability for causing your injuries.  Drivers who can reasonably foresee the risk of an accident (due to a medical emergency) must take steps to mitigate those risks, by refusing to drive or by taking necessary medication.  Whether the medical emergency was reasonably foreseeable depends on the circumstances.  For example, if the defendant-driver failed to take their seizure medication before operating their vehicle, then the subsequent seizure would have been reasonably foreseeable.

Speak to an Experienced Phoenix Car Accident Lawyer for Assistance

Hirsch & Lyon is a boutique personal injury litigation firm based in Phoenix, AZ.

Our attorneys represent injured plaintiffs a range of motor vehicle lawsuits, such as those that arise out of a car, truck, motorcycle, or pedestrian accident.  Unlike many of our regional competitors, however, we focus exclusively on such disputes — this specialization has given us a keen understanding of motor vehicle accident litigation, and what is necessary (from a strategic perspective) to obtain the highest possible damages for our clients.

Interested in speaking to a qualified attorney about your claims?  Call 602-535-1900 or submit an online case evaluation form to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Phoenix car accident lawyer at Hirsch & Lyon today.

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