A dangerous pattern is emerging in New Jersey where drivers suffer medical emergencies behind the wheel. These emergencies cause them to lose control of their vehicles – often barreling into innocent motorists and pedestrians afterward. After regaining consciousness, these drivers may claim to have had no control over their vehicles. But is this really enough to avoid legal consequences? What can you do if you have been injured by a driver who allegedly had a medical emergency before the crash? These types of crashes are becoming more common in New Jersey, so these questions are more relevant than ever.
Woman Causes Serious Crash After Suffering Medical Emergency
On August 18, 2023, an elderly driver allegedly suffered a medical emergency of some kind in Garfield. The 88-year-old then lost control of her vehicle, causing it to gather speed and crash into a light pole and then a large flower pot. Narrowly missing a pedestrian while traveling at a high speed on the sidewalk, the unconscious woman then crashed into two parked cars and finally came to a halt. Needless to say, this situation could have been much worse.
The circumstances of this accident are somewhat confusing. The elderly woman claims that she fell unconscious after putting her foot down on the accelerator. This means that while she was unresponsive, her foot was still resting heavily on the gas. Apparently, the final impact snapped her out of her unconscious state – as she was lucid while being transported to a nearby hospital for treatment.
In addition, the pedestrian did not escape entirely unscathed. According to the report, the tire ran over his foot, and he will require ongoing medical treatment to address this injury. According to this victim, he barely reacted in time as the car “wooshed” past, and he could have easily been killed. He claims that he coincidentally stopped for lunch early that day and that only God’s grace saved him from death.
Who is to Blame After a Crash Caused by a Medical Emergency?
Pay attention to crash reports in New Jersey, and you will quickly find that the phrase “medical emergency” comes up quite often. This is not a coincidence. In the Garden State, defendants may attempt to take advantage of something called the “medical emergency defense.” This concept is quite simple: If you cause an accident after suffering from a medical emergency, you cannot be held responsible for what follows. In other words, those who are unconscious are not in control of their actions, and therefore they cannot be blamed for what happens.
The problem is that defense attorneys have become well aware of this strategy, and they often attempt to take full advantage of it. That being said, New Jersey does not have a clear stance on this particular issue. The most relevant case is probably Harpell v. Public Service Coordinated Transport, 20 N.J. 309 (1956). In this case, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that in the case of a “sudden emergency,” people must make reasonable decisions based on the circumstances – taking into account the instinctual, sudden nature of these decisions.
If a defendant attempted to use the medical emergency defense in New Jersey, they would likely need to show that they were previously unaware of this medical condition. For example, someone with no prior history of seizures might be able to use this defense if they suffer a sudden seizure behind the wheel for the first time. If they have a long history of seizures backed up by medical records, this defense may fail.
New Jersey Bans Drivers With a History of Seizures
To a certain degree, New Jersey helps to avoid this entire situation by banning drivers who have a history of seizures. According to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, a driver must be seizure-free for six months before they can re-apply for their driver’s license. Drivers may also be suspended for being “medically unqualified” due to other health issues.
Where Can I Find an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in New Jersey?
If you have been injured by another motorist in New Jersey, you are fully entitled to explore options for compensation. The best way to assess these options is alongside an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney such as Lependorf & Silverstein. During a consultation with one of these injury attorneys, you can discuss who might be at fault for your accident. Although New Jersey is a no-fault state, serious accidents may lead to personal injury lawsuits. The so-called “medical emergency defense” may not be as reliable as many defendants assume, so get in touch with us today to begin the legal process.