Medical Emergencies That Preclude Crashes Complicate Injury Claims


Investigators say a medical emergency suffered by the driver of a Toyota Sienna minivan caused the vehicle to propel forward into a restaurant on University Drive in Plantation, where several diners were seated for lunch.

The crash was described as “low speed,” but the impact caused five people to suffer injuries. At least one of those was listed in serious condition at Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale. Reporters detailed the skid marks still on the floor and blood still on the wall in the hours after the crash. The driver, who was downgraded from serious to stable condition, was treated by paramedics at the scene before being transported to a local hospital. One witness reported the minivan came “zooming” past his table, and he rushed to aid his fellow patrons. He described one man as “badly hurt.”

Because authorities are indicating the cause of this crash may have been a medical emergency, it may be difficult for injury lawyers to prove negligence, which is critical to securing compensation from the driver of that van. It falls under the “sudden emergency doctrine” exception of liability.

The sudden emergency doctrine holds that  a person who, through no fault of his or her own, is placed in a sudden emergency can’t be charged with negligence if that person exercised a degree of care which a reasonable person would under the circumstances. There are two elements that have to exist for the sudden emergency doctrine to applicable in injury law:

  • An emergency situation existed;
  • The emergency was not created by the negligence of the party seeking protection under the doctrine.

Some examples of emergency medical situations that may thwart an effort to establish negligence:

  • Diabetic episodes
  • Seizures
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Severe sneezing
  • Cramps
  • Reaction to medications
  • Mental delusions
  • Loss of consciousness

Of course, it’s important to point out these defenses could fail if there is any evidence the driver was advised by a medical doctor not to drive or had experienced similar episodes before or began to fall ill, but continued driving anyway. These situations would indicate the driver had forewarning of the possible danger, the risks were foreseeable and the driver chose to get or stay behind the wheel anyway.

These factors are worth careful exploration because they could be the key difference in whether someone who has been injured in a car accident can receive compensation from the driver who caused it.

Another example of this situation occurred last month in Dania Beach, where a 58-year-old man died after suffering a medical emergency that caused him to lose control of the vehicle, drive over the median, cross the road and crash into two fences. It was sheer chance he didn’t strike any other vehicles and no one else was hurt.

Another case in Miami occurred in June, when the driver of a Jeep Cherokee lost consciousness behind the wheel, striking a traffic light, hitting a curb and ending up on the sidewalk. The SUV flipped, and two men, two women and a 5-year-old child inside the vehicle were hurt.

One possible avenue plaintiffs might explore in these cases may be defective road design. Traffic engineers and property owners have to anticipate that occasionally, drivers may lose control of their vehicles. That means it’s important to erect concrete barriers, effective medians, guardrails and other protective features that help to minimize the possible injury and damage such drivers may cause.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (561) 347-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Five hurt when minivan crashes into Plantation restaurant, Dec. 8, 2015, By Linda Trischitta, The Sun-Sentinel

More Blog Entries:

Nineteenth Street Investments v. Robertson et al – $15 Million Dram Shop Verdict Upheld, Dec. 12, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog