The outcome of car crashes in New York state as well as the rest of the country is almost always influenced by whomever is responsible for the motor vehicle accident. The injured individual pursuing the claim must demonstrate that the other motorist acted improperly, for example by speeding or running a stop sign; but what happens when a car accident is due to medical emergency?
Car Accident Due to Medical Emergency
Occasionally, a motorist argues that an accident was not their fault because they were facing a medical incident like a heart attack at the time of the crash. Statistics show that annually in New York, medical-associated issues are the primary contributing factor in several hundred car accidents.
When assisting car crash victims who have been harmed through no mistake of their own, our Long Island car accident lawyers will closely examine the events of the crash to determine the cause of the harm that they ended up facing. While we feel compassion for anyone who has incurred a serious medical incident, we also work to determine whether the other motorist’s medical issue was foreseeable and whether the medical condition directly caused the car crash.
New York law acknowledges that legitimate reasons exist why a motorist might suddenly become incapacitated due to no fault of his or her own. In New York state, the defense of sudden and unforeseeable incapacity is sometimes capable of being successfully raised.
In most cases, a motorist who wants to raise the sudden emergency defense doctrine must demonstrate:
- They experienced sudden physical incapacity
- This incapacity left the driver unable to operate his or her vehicle
- The crash was due to the loss of control that resulted from the incapacity
- Most time, defendants also must demonstrate that incapacity was not reasonably foreseeable
Courts have consistently found that individuals who experience symptoms before an accident likely had adequate warning that a serious medical condition was approaching. In these situations, the drivers are often expected to have resolved their medical issues before operating a vehicle.
A motorist who has been shown responsible for a crash has the burden of proof when raising the medical emergency defense. At the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe LLP, our personal injury attorneys have the experience necessary to overcome this defense.
New York’s Sudden Emergency Law
A recent opinion by the New York Court of Appeals in Lifson v. City of Syracuse and Klink emphasizes how the state handles the emergency doctrine. In this case, Lifson and Klink were both employees at an office in Syracuse. In 2000, Klink was driving his vehicle when he performed a left turn close to the building where many workers cross the street to obtain their vehicle. As Mr. Klink was performing this turn, he argued that was temporarily blinded due to the sun and as a result, Mr. Klink’s vehicle struck and later killed Ms. Lifson.
Lifson’s attorney requested that the jury be given the emergency charge, which states that if a motorist is confronted with a condition that is sudden and unexpected, not of the motorist’s making, and leaves a small time to respond, the driver may escape responsibility if the driver’s actions were reasonable under the situation.
The jury in this case ultimately decided that Kilnk had met a sudden emergency and that the accident was the fault of both the victim and the City of Syracuse. A judge of the Court of Appeals reversed a lower court order and remanded the case for a new trial. The judge found this not a sudden emergency that Klink met. Instead, the judge argued that Mr. Klink should have anticipated he would face sun glare and taken the necessary precautions. As a result, the judge found the case was Mr. Klink’s creation and not a sudden unforeseeable, or unexpected emergency.
Remember, it takes a lot to successfully argue the sudden emergency defense in the state of New York.
The Types of Sudden Medical Emergencies Drivers Claim
New York’s sudden medical emergency defense involves the burden of establishing “sudden incapacity.” As compared to states that reference a loss of consciousness, this means that a wider range of medical conditions can be raised in claiming such a defense.
Motorists experience a loss of consciousness while driving due to various things. Some of the reasons why motorists experience loss of consciousness include:
- Heart attack
- Medication reactions
Besides these factors that lead to loss of consciousness, some of the other medical causes known to result in the sudden inability whether mental or physical to operate a vehicle include:
- Allergic reactions
- Mental illness
How Our Lawyers Can Help You Overcome the Sudden Emergency Defense
Motorists arguing that a medical emergency was responsible for a car crash must demonstrate that an event occurred that was not foreseeable and which made the motorist unable to avoid a crash. Some of the various strategies that our lawyers raise when we consider attacking this defense include:
Evidence of medical history. The person who experienced the medical injury that caused the crash must demonstrate signs of incapacitating evidence. Motorists who claim short-term issues like choking would likely require testimony from passengers in the vehicle to bolster this defense. Our car accident lawyers would analyze any evidence and question witnesses to investigate the details surrounding the crash. Sometimes, our lawyers even discover details from passengers or first responders that contract testimony provided by the defendant.
Foreseeability. The most common issue used to challenge the defense of a sudden medical emergency is whether a medical issue is foreseeable. We often seek a person’s medical records and consult with doctors as well as others to assess whether a person claiming a medical issue had any previous similar medical issues before the crash. If we determine the person who caused the crash had signs of a controllable disease, we often will examine their steps before the crash to assess whether they had taken medication as prescribed to adequately treat symptoms.
Caution. The surprise of a crash or ending up in a collision could result in a heart attack. Sometimes, strokes are the result of blows to the head incurred during a crash. Our lawyers know how to question medical evidence, assess a person’s behavior before a crash, and evaluate other details that explain a crash to decide whether other factors played a role in causing the accident. Details from a vehicle’s “black box” that records critical vehicle functions at the moment of a crash might even reveal the actual cause of a collision.
Many times, our lawyers can determine another cause of a crash and defeat a medical emergency defense that the other party has raised. Defeating the medical emergency defense, however, requires exhaustive and independent investigation by a skilled legal team equipped with resources and dedication to show actually why a crash occurred.
Speak With an Experienced Car Accident Attorney in Long Island
If you or a loved one is involved in a car wreck and the driver who caused the crash claims that it was a car accident due to medical emergency, our Nassau County car crash attorneys can investigate the accident to determine the actual cause of the crash as well as who should be held responsible for the accident. Contact the experienced personal injury lawyers of Cohen & Jaffe today to schedule a free case evaluation.
For a free legal consultation, call 516-358-6900