Sudden Medical Emergency Defense in Virginia Car Accidents | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Imagine this scenario: Joe comes up to a stop sign and stops his vehicle. There is no other vehicle at the intersection at that moment, so Joe proceeds. Suddenly, another vehicle comes up to the intersection from Joe’s left and instead of stopping, they speed right through the stop sign and slams into Joe’s vehicle. Joe is left with multiple injuries that require months of recovery, high medical bills, and loss of income from being unable to work. Under Virginia law, the driver who ran the stop sign is at fault for the crash and would be responsible for any losses Joe suffered because of his injuries.




Now imagine that the driver who ran the stop sign did so because they suffered a medical emergency and became incapacitated. In this situation, the driver may not be held liable for Joe’s losses under the “sudden medical emergency defense.” If you have been injured in a crash caused by a driver claiming they had a medical emergency, contact a Virginia car accident attorney from Shapiro & Appleton right away.

Under Virginia’s injury law, in order to hold a driver liable for a crash, the victim must prove that the other doctor was negligence or reckless in some way, proving the driver breached the duty they owed to other commuters on the road. Running a stop sign is usually considered a breach of duty because the driver is breaking traffic laws. But if the driver suffered a sudden medical emergency that was beyond their control, the law does not consider that a breach of duty.

Some of the common types of sudden medical emergencies that occur, resulting in car accidents include:

  • Heart attack
  • Fainting
  • Reaction to medication
  • Stroke
  • Diabetic reaction, such as a drop in blood sugar or drop in blood pressure
  • Seizure

There are exceptions to the sudden medical emergency defense. If the driver had been warned by their physician that they should not drive because their medical condition could cause them to lose consciousness or seizure, then they could be held liable for the crash. There are also cases where the driver failed to follow their doctor’s treatment plan, knowing they were putting their health at risk. For example, a person who is a diabetic who does not take the steps to manage their blood sugar knows that they could pass out or even go into a diabetic coma for failing to follow doctor’s orders. Since this could happen at any moment, they are aware that it could even happen if they are behind the wheel of a car, creating a breach of duty to other drivers.

Contact Our Firm Today

If you were injured in a car accident, it is critical not to delay contacting a Virginia car accident attorney from Shapiro & Appleton right away. Virginia injury laws have strict rules regarding how long you have to file your personal injury claim. If the statute of limitations expires, you will be unable to collect financial damages for any medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, or any other losses you may be entitled to.

A Virginia car accident attorney from our firm can evaluate your case and determine whether or not you can collect damages from the other driver’s insurance company. Call today for a free consultation and find out how we can help.