Motor vehicle accidents can have devastating consequences, leaving victims with serious injuries and unable to work while medical and household bills mount. These crashes often have negligence-related causes, such as speeding, distraction, or driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Fortunately, when you're hurt in an accident caused by a negligent driver, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against them to seek compensation for injuries and damages.
But what if the driver who injured you had a medical emergency that caused them to lose control of their vehicle? Unfortunately, this can complicate your injury claim. Keep reading to learn about California's sudden emergency defense, and why you need a skilled attorney to investigate your crash and help you build a strong case for damages.
Medical Conditions That Can Affect Driving Performance
There are a number of medical conditions that can affect a person's ability to drive safely and increase their risk of blacking out, falling asleep, or having a seizure behind the wheel, including:
- Epilepsy and other seizure disorders
- Sleep apnea
- Heart disease
- Brain tumors
- Neurological disorders
While these conditions can cause dangerous episodes, they don't usually prevent a person from obtaining a drivers license. However, drivers with medical conditions are expected to work closely with their doctors to manage their illnesses.
What You Should Know About the Sudden Emergency Defense
Also known as the doctrine of imminent peril, the sudden emergency defense—when used successfully—allows drivers to escape liability for accidents, injuries, and damages they caused while experiencing an unforeseen medical episode.
This defense applies in limited circumstances, as the driver in question can't have prior knowledge of their condition. For example, if a driver with no history of heart disease has a sudden heart attack and loses control of their vehicle, causing an accident, they could potentially use the sudden emergency defense. However, if a diabetic fails to eat on schedule and their blood sugar drops, causing them to pass out and cause an accident, they would be less likely to prevail with the sudden emergency defense. Why? Because they could have monitored their blood sugar and prevented the hypoglycemic episode, but failed to take the necessary precautions.
In personal injury cases involving the sudden emergency defense, California juries are instructed that the defendant was not negligent if they can prove that:
- There was a sudden and unexpected emergency situation in which someone was in actual or apparent danger of immediate injury
- The defendant did not cause the emergency
- The defendant acted as a reasonably careful person would have acted in similar circumstances, even if it appears later that a different course of action would have been safer
Having the defendant in your car accident case use the sudden emergency defense can make the idea of recovering fair damages seem hopeless. Fortunately, that isn't the case. The strict limitations on the defense means a successful case resolution and recovery is possible.
An adept personal injury can help you recover compensation for a wide range of economic and non-economic damages, including:
- Current and future accident-related medical expenses
- Property damages
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Physical pain and suffering
- Psychological trauma
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- And more
Not such which damages may apply in your case? Our knowledgeable personal injury attorneys can help.
Consult an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney About Your California Car Crash Case
Accident cases in which the sudden emergency defense is used can be complicated and confusing. You need an attorney who understands the intricacies of the law and can point to a track record of success. That's just what you'll find at the Inland Empire Law Group. Contact us today at (888) 694-3529 to schedule an appointment for a free, no-obligation initial consultation. We look forward to learning about your case and discussing how we can help.