Who is liable when a medical condition causes a car accident?
Car accidents are often the result of driver negligence, intoxication, or distraction. At times, however, a driver causes a car accident due to a pre-existing or sudden medical condition. Health conditions that may render someone unsafe to drive include poor eyesight, sleep apnea, diabetes, heart disease, and seizure disorders. Liability for car accidents in New Mexico caused by drivers with medical conditions can be complicated.
Medical Conditions That Could Prevent Safe Driving
There are several conditions that could cause a driver to get in an accident. Two of the most common accident inducing medical conditions include heart attacks and strokes. Both of these conditions can happen swiftly and without warning. With either condition, the driver could find themselves unconscious or otherwise without much ability to control their actions.
Other conditions that could cause accidents include epilepsy and diabetes. Both of these conditions could cause the driver to lose consciousness. Most states will impose restrictions on drivers with epilepsy and other conditions known to cause driving emergencies. Drivers that know they have a condition that could lead to an accident should ask their doctor whether driving is a wise choice.
NM Does Not Recognize the Sudden Medical Emergency Defense
Most states recognize the defense of sudden medical emergency when it comes to car accident claims. With this defense, the defendant who suffered a medical emergency and injured another can escape liability. Usually, the defendant will need to prove that he or she lost consciousness before the accident, and this loss of consciousness was not a foreseeable medical condition. The sudden medical emergency defense can be difficult to prove, especially for defendants with documented past medical emergencies, but for some, it will result in a finding of no liability as to the driver.
New Mexico has elected not to recognize the sudden medical emergency defense. In a 1993 case, the New Mexico Supreme Court said that the sudden emergency doctrine was unnecessary as a part of the jury instructions because it could potentially confuse the jury. This ruling sets New Mexico apart from many other states with a clear medical exception. Nonetheless, defendants who caused an accident due to a medical emergency may still attempt to defend against the action by urging their lack of negligence. Your personal injury attorney will review the circumstances leading up to the accident and advise you as to your full legal rights.
Posted in: Personal Injury