August 22, 2022
Auto Accident

Medical emergencies like heart attacks or seizures can strike suddenly and aggressively. If you’re driving when a health crisis occurs, you may lose consciousness and cause injury to yourself or another driver, making it critically important to act immediately in this situation.

Learn what to do if you experience a medical emergency while driving, so you can protect your safety and the safety of other drivers and receive the necessary treatment as quickly as possible.

What Counts as a Medical Emergency?

In a driving context, a medical emergency refers to any medical symptom or manifestation of a disease that arises unexpectedly or suddenly that has the potential to disrupt your driving ability. Medical emergencies pose an immediate risk to your life and long-term health and usually require urgent attention by a medical health professional.

Common medical emergencies affecting driving ability include heart attacks, strokes, seizures, and fainting or loss of consciousness. Individuals experiencing these emergencies lose partial or total control of their bodies and can no longer safely operate their vehicles.

Warning signs of a medical emergency include:

  • Chest discomfort, pain, or tightness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Nausea
  • Sudden dizziness, light-headedness, or weakness
  • Choking
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Vision changes

If you experience any of these precursors to a medical emergency or are unsure if you are experiencing a medical emergency but feel that something isn’t right, it’s always best practice to pull off the road and reach out for assistance.

What Should I Do if I Experience a Medical Emergency While Driving?

How you respond to a medical emergency while driving depends on the severity and nature of the symptoms you are experiencing.

If your medical emergency causes you to lose consciousness while driving, you are automatically at risk for an accident since you no longer control the car. In Alabama, you are not allowed to drive if you have experienced a state of altered consciousness or a loss of body control due to a neurological condition within the past six months.

Your license may be returned to you six months after the incident; however, the state makes decisions on a case-by-case basis.

If you remain conscious during a medical emergency while driving, your best option is to pull over to a safe location as soon as possible. Signal your intention to pull off the road with your blinkers or hazard warning lights so other drivers can adjust their speed or switch lanes if necessary.

Pulling over may be challenging on highways where speeds are faster. Signaling your intentions can help protect you as you slow down. Pulling over on a highway shoulder is legal if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Once you have stopped your vehicle in a safe location, call 911. Many medical emergencies, like strokes and heart attacks, require immediate treatment. Calling for help as soon as possible could mean the difference between life and death.

Don’t try to drive yourself to the hospital, even if one is close by unless directed explicitly by emergency personnel.

What if My Medical Emergency Causes an Accident or Injures Another Driver?

If a medical emergency has caused you to get into a car accident or injure another driver, you may wonder if you are at fault.

Many states, including Alabama, recognize the Sudden Medical Emergency Defense. This defense takes the liability off any driver who has suffered an unforeseen medical emergency that leads to a car accident.

Under Alabama’s Sudden Emergency Doctrine, motorists whose emergency is no fault of their own are held to the same standard of care as a reasonably prudent person under similar conditions.

For the Sudden Medical Emergency Defense to apply, the driver must prove suddenness and unforeseeability. It must be clear that the driver had no chance to mitigate the medical emergency and that the driver couldn’t have foreseen the occurrence of the emergency.

The Sudden Emergency Doctrine measures driver behavior against a subjective standard: you must behave the way a reasonably prudent person would in the same situation. Due to this subjective standard, it’s essential for individuals who have experienced a medical emergency while driving to partner with a lawyer who understands the nuances of this law and can give appropriate legal advice regarding possible liability or compensation.

In personal injury cases, Alabama uses contributory negligence to decide compensation. This doctrine says you cannot receive compensation if you are even 1% at fault for an accident. Working with a knowledgeable lawyer is vital in a complex case involving a medical emergency on the road.

The Vance Law Firm Can Help

If you have experienced a medical emergency that led to a driving accident, or you have been injured by another driver experiencing a medical crisis, find a Montgomery car accident lawyer who can help determine your options for compensation.

If you or someone you know has gotten into an accident caused by a driver experiencing a medical emergency, the experienced car accident lawyers at The Vance Law Firm can help determine your options for compensation and get you the money you deserve.

Contact us today for more information or to schedule a free consultation.

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