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March 28, 2016

In many car accident cases, the issue of fault is pretty straightforward – the other driver ran a red light, or couldn’t stop in time and rear-ended your vehicle, for example. But a recent accident in Sumter County sheds light on a not-so-simple liability case where the at-fault driver suffered a medical emergency just before the accident occurred.

The Florida Highway Patrol said driver David Martin McCurry, 58, suffered a medical emergency where he lost consciousness and crashed his car into a golf cart carrying two passengers, as well as and a man who was walking along County Road 466A Saturday, February 20th. Nancy Ann Vonnostitz, 66, of The Villages, and her passenger, Marsha K. Eger, 68, of New York, were both killed. Pedestrian Brian David Williams, 38, of Wildwood, was seriously injured.

This tragic incident sheds light on a complex legal issue that require the expertise of an experienced auto accident attorney. Most states recognize the “sudden medical emergency defense,” which can relieve a driver from liability if they suffer an unforeseen medical emergency that causes a car accident. The state of Florida is one of these states, and according to Florida law “The operator of an automobile who unexpectedly loses consciousness or becomes incapacitated is not chargeable with negligence as a result of his or her loss of control.” The rationale for this is that a person who suffers a sudden medical emergency has not acted negligently and therefore should not be held responsible for an accident caused by something that was beyond their control, and which they couldn’t have foreseen.

But the damages and losses caused by drivers who lose consciousness or experience a medical emergency just before a crash can have devastating effects, as this case shows. People can be killed, seriously injured, experience enormous damage to their personal property, home, or business, and many other problems. Many victims and their families want to know who is going to pay for all this if the driver cannot be charged with negligence?

A driver who claims to have suffered a sudden medical emergency usually has the burden of proof to show the following:

  • That he or she suddenly lost consciousness before the accident occurred;
  • That the loss of consciousness caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle, and;
  • That the loss of consciousness was caused by an unforeseeable medical emergency.

If the driver is successful in proving these things, they (usually meaning their insurance company) may be off the hook for any injuries and/or damages caused by the accident. However, if it can be established that the driver had experienced previous similar medical episodes or had forewarning of the onset of the condition and drove despite the foreseeable risks, negligence can be established. This requires obtaining medical releases, obtaining confidential medical records, and/or discussing private medical information with the driver’s physician. This usually cannot be accomplished without filing a lawsuit. Even in the event that the driver is able to prove these things, then you aren’t completely out of luck, as your attorney can still help you seek compensation from your own insurance company.

If you or someone you know has been involved in an Orlando accident where the at-fault driver is claiming a blackout or sudden medical emergency, it may be time to talk to an experienced attorney to make sure your rights are protected. At the Law Offices of James O. Cunningham, P.A., we’ve been helping car accident victims and their families receive compensation for injuries, damages, and losses following accidents of all types for more than 30 years. Our experienced attorneys are ready to take a look at your case.

For a free initial consultation, contact us today at 888-FLA-AUTO (888-352-2886).

James O. Cunningham

Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.

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