At least one person suffered injuries when a car unexpectedly drove into a Los Angeles area liquor store. According to reports, the driver lost control of his SUV and crashed through the store’s front window. Police believe that the driver suffered a sudden medical emergency behind the wheel. If this is true, he may not be liable for damage or injuries caused by the crash.
Defendants Can Argue Medical Emergency As Defense in Personal Injury Lawsuits
Generally speaking, if your actions cause another to get hurt, you can be financially responsible for their injuries. This even extends to harm you may cause if you are mentally ill or of unsound mind. There are very few exceptions to this rule.
Courts in California, however, have recognized that a sudden and unanticipated medical emergency can excuse behaviors that would otherwise be considered negligent. In other words, if you have a stroke or other medical emergency while driving, you can escape liability for damages.
Defendants Must Satisfy Burden of Proof When Asserting Medical Emergency Excuse
The driver who plowed into a Venice liquor store is believed to have suffered a medical emergency behind the wheel. However, victims in the crash May still try to pursue compensation from him for their injuries. In order to escape liability, the driver will have to satisfy the burden of proof for the medical emergency excuse.
In California, courts have explained that the medical emergency excuse can be successful if a person can prove:
- The driver suffered a physical, not mental, medical emergency
- The emergency was sudden and immediately rendered them unable to control the vehicle, and
- The driver could not have anticipated that the emergency would occur.
The excuse can only be successful if the driver can also overcome the presumption of negligence. In other words, they cannot have violated a law that exists to prevent a type of harm that occurred.
Negligence and Knowledge of a Medical Condition
Drivers cannot successfully assert the medical excuse defense if they knew or should have known that they suffered from the medical condition that caused the accident. In fact, getting behind the wheel with knowledge of such a medical condition can be considered negligent or reckless. In addition to liability in a personal injury lawsuit, drivers who do this may also be vulnerable to criminal charges.
Challenges in Asserting the Medical Emergency Defense
This controversial defense can only be successful if a sudden and unexpected medical emergency causes a driver to lose the ability to control a vehicle. After a car accident, it’s common for drivers to be shaken up. As a result, it can be challenging to prove that a medical emergency occurred before the crash, rather than as a result of it.
It’s up to the driver to prove that the emergency occurred before the accident, not because of it. This can be difficult to establish. At the same time, the plaintiff in a lawsuit will do whatever they can to cast doubt on the claim that a driver didn’t know they suffered from a medical condition. A plaintiff will dig into medical records, speak with friends and family, and dig up whatever information they can to prove that the driver knew, or should have known, that driving wasn’t a safe choice.
Even if a medical emergency does cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle, it may be next to impossible to prove.