A head-on collision between a Ford Expedition and a PT Cruiser in Loudon County, Virginia (VA), left one woman dead and another driver hospitalized with serious injuries. The fatal crash happened at around 4 pm on March 7, 2017.
Police told reporters that they suspect the driver of the Ford Expedition experienced a medical emergency and lost control of her vehicle before running across the grassy median of Cascades Parkway. She died on the scene, which was between Maries Road and Woodland Road.
Investigators do not know exactly what happened, but drivers' health problems are a well-recognized cause of crashes that leave people injured and dead. In a 2009 report titled The Contribution of Medical Conditions to Passenger Vehicle Crashes, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) wrote that an analysis of traffic accident reports from across the United States revealed that "84 percent of the drivers in crashes precipitated by medical emergencies experienced seizures, blackouts or diabetic reactions."
NHTSA researchers also discovered that drivers who could cite a medical reason for crashing were aware that their long-term health, contemporaneous physical state or medication regimen put them at risk for causing the wreck in which they became involved. The agency recommended better education by health care providers about drug side effects and when not to drive as the best way to reduce the occurrence of medical emergencies behind the wheel.
Drowsy driver warning systems (i.e., wake-up alarms) and lane departure alerts were also named as safety technologies that might prevent crashes related to medical emergencies. The real message, however, was that people in poor health or who were taking medications that warn users to avoid operating heavy equipment should stay out of the driver's seat.
To use "medical emergency" as a defense for avoiding responsibility for settling insurance claims and making compensation to crash victims, a driver must prove that he or she did not expect to lose consciousness or bodily control. Making the counterargument comes down to showing that the driver had an existing diagnosis, was observed to be in poor health before taking the wheel and/or was taking medications that cause drowsiness, confusion or loss of coordination.
Working with an experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer could help the person injured in this Loudon County crash on Cascades Parkway collect and present evidence that the medical problem experienced by the out-of-control driver was foreseeable, which would have made the wreck and its negative consequences preventable.