What happens when a driver of a car suffers a sudden and unexpected medical condition, such as a heart attack, which causes him to lose control of his car resulting in an accident? In California if the accident was caused by a sudden onset illness which the driver had no reason to suspect he may be able to escape liability when he injures another in the ensuing accident. KSBY is reporting that a driver with very low blood sugar crashed near Highway 1 in Lompoc. The driver apparently tried to slow, but crossed the road into the wrong lane before crashing.
If this accident caused injury to another would the driver be civilly liable? It depends. If the driver had no reason to expect that he could suffer from low blood sugar, then he may very well not have been negligent. However, this driver was reported to be diabetic. If the driver was aware of his medical condition he would have been obligated to take reasonable steps to ensure that he wasn’t driving with low blood sugar.
Similarly, if you have a history of seizures, whether or not you should be driving will be a question of fact. It is a more difficult question when a driver suffers a heart attack when driving thus causing an accident. What if the driver knew he had coronary heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and a family history of cardiac arrests? Should that driver stay off of the road? It will depend on what the medical experts say. If the cardiologist testifies that while the driver was at risk, there was no way to reasonably suspect a heart attack, then the driver may escape liability. On the other hand, if the testimony is that the driver was a “heart attack waiting to happen”, then it may very well have been unreasonable for that driver to be behind the wheel of a car.
In these case understanding the medical evidence will be critical in determining civil liability.