What Happens If A Medical Condition Leads To A Car Crash?

Feb 1, 2023 | Frequently Asked Questions, Accidents

Many traffic accidents happen because a driver is not paying attention or is impaired and in no condition to drive. Drunk driving accounts for nearly one-third of all fatal crashes, while incidents involving distracted drivers continue to rise and may be responsible for close to 15 percent of all traffic accidents.

Although not as common as intoxicated or distracted driving, other forms of impairment can lead to a crash, too. Collisions in which one of the parties is experiencing some kind of medical emergency, such as a heart attack or seizure, are more common than you may think. Studies suggest that motorists with a pre-existing medical condition are more likely to be at fault (“crash culpability”) in a collision, and that medical emergencies play a role in up to twenty percent of traffic incidents. But assigning fault in such situations can be challenging, for many reasons.


Any medical event that interferes with the ability to safely operate a vehicle qualifies as a medical emergency. A condition that causes loss of consciousness, such as a diabetic dealing with a low blood-sugar level, or to loss of muscle control, such as a grand mal seizure associated with epilepsy, can be particularly dangerous. States can and do put driving restrictions on people with pre-existing conditions that are regarded as serious and ongoing impairment. However, a number of other medical conditions can also lead to a crash, from a severe asthma attack to confusion or dizziness caused by prescription medication to vision problems.


All drivers are expected to exercise a reasonable standard of care in operating a motor vehicle. But establishing that someone with a medical condition is at fault in a crash is not as simple as it might appear. That person could offer what’s known as the “sudden emergency doctrine” as a defense, contending that the unexpected medical emergency prevented them from taking the steps they would otherwise have taken to prevent harming others.

To prove negligence on the part of the medically impaired driver, the other side would have to introduce evidence that a pre-existing medical condition contributed to or caused the crash, that the defendant was aware of the condition, and yet had failed to take appropriate actions (such as taking medication as prescribed or avoiding driving). To do that effectively often involves a thorough investigation of the defendant’s medical history and an understanding of the severity of the condition, as well as ascertaining what sort of medical advice the defendant had received about driving restrictions.

In some cases, a medical emergency may well be completely unexpected, such as a heart attack when the patient has no history of heart disease. But in situations where a driver chose to ignore medical advice or failed to take necessary precautions to avoid endangering others, an experienced personal injury attorney will know how to bring evidence to light that will help to establish negligence and seek fair compensation for victims of the crash.


For more than thirty years the attorneys at Franklin D. Azar & Associates have helped thousands of injured people obtain complete and timely compensation for their losses. Our proven track record and expertise have allowed us to grow into the largest personal-injury law firm in Colorado, with offices in Denver, Aurora, Thornton, Fort Collins, Greeley, Grand Junction, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. If you’ve been injured in a bus, car, truck, bicycle, or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation.  Please call the car accident attorneys at FDAzar day or night at 800-716-9032, or contact us here for a free consultation and no-obligation evaluation of your case.