A Louisville, Kentucky man was killed in a car accident on the Clark Memorial Bridge between Indiana and Kentucky on December 2, 2011. He was hit head-on by another vehicle headed in the opposite direction. The driver of the pickup truck that caused the accident was not intoxicated, did not fall asleep behind the wheel, and was not distracted by a cell phone or car radio. According to an eye witness, the driver of the pickup truck appeared to be having a seizure when the accident occurred. The passenger in the truck attempted to keep it out of incoming traffic but was unable to do so. Who is at fault when an accident occurs as a result of a medical condition? Can the passenger be held liable for the accident? Both of these questions arise in this accident.
A few days after the accident, the eyewitness account that the driver had a seizure was confirmed. The Courier-Journal reported that he was on medication for epilepsy, a condition that causes a person to have seizures. While the thought of someone who might have a seizure driving a vehicle may be frightening, it is not illegal. Kentucky law states an individual who is certified by a doctor to have been seizure-free for 90 days can apply for a driver's license. The Kentucky Medical Review Board will review the application and most likely interview the applicant before deciding whether the individual can drive. If the individual is given a license, he must continue to be monitored by his physician and report any seizures that occur. There are several ways that the medical review board can become aware of a person's potential inability to drive, as shown in this excerpt from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet:
- If the driver has indicated that he has "blacked out", lost consciousness or suffered a seizure prior to a reportable motor vehicle accident;
- If the driver has been reported by a physician as being incapable of driving safely due to a physical or mental condition, or due to medication prescribed for an extended period of time;
- If the driver has been reported by a law enforcement officer after being observed driving or behaving in an erratic or dangerous manner which indicates the possibility of a physical or mental impairment;
- If the driver's official record kept by the Transportation Cabinet indicates a possibility of a physical or mental impairment;
- If the driver has reported that he suffered an epileptic seizure or any type of syncopal episode;
- If the driver has been reported by a commonwealth attorney, county attorney, county clerk, circuit clerk, sheriff or judge as being incapable of driving due to a physical or mental impairment.
- If the driver has been named in an affidavit by at least two citizens as being incapable of properly operating a motor vehicle due to a physical or mental impairment.
The driver may still be held liable for the accident even though it appears his medical condition caused it. As for the passenger who tried to stop the vehicle, even if it was proven that his actions caused the accident, he would most likely not be liable. Under the "sudden emergency doctrine," people who take reasonable action when faced with an emergency situation cannot be held liable for the outcome of the situation even if, in hindsight, the action they took was not the best choice. In this case, it would appear that the family of the deceased would be best to pursue the driver of the truck if they decided to file a wrongful death suit.
If you would like more information about accidents caused by a medical condition, or any other type of accident, please contact a http://www.millerfalknerlaw.com/. Charles Miller and Rheanne Falkner have been helping accident victims with insurance claims and legal cases for over eight years.
Driver in fatal bridge crash on epilepsy medicine, Jeffersonville police say; The Courier-Journal; Ben Zion Hershberger; December 7, 2011
Wreck kills one; The Courier-Journal; December 3, 2011