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What is the Sudden Medical Emergency Defense?

A driver may be relieved of liability in a car accident in some situations in which a medical condition is the cause. The rationale behind the sudden medical emergency defense is that there is no negligence involved and the matter was beyond the motorists control, so he or she should not be required to pay compensation to an injured victim. Generally, a person has the burden of proof in claiming this defense, which includes three elements:

  • The Driver Experienced a Sudden Loss of Consciousness: The key time frame for the defense is the moments before the accident occurred, though there is no specific number of minutes. Still, the suddenness is a critical factor. The loss of consciousness must have occurred so abruptly and unexpectedly that the driver had no control over the vehicle, and could not react to mitigate the situation. In addition, this defense requires the person to prove that he or she had no indication of any symptoms before experienced sudden unconsciousness. When the driver notices a medical issue and ignores it, there is no suddenness.
  • The Loss of Consciousness Led to Loss of Control Over the Vehicle: For this element, a driver must establish more than simple impairment or lack of control. There must be complete unconsciousness with complete loss of the ability to operate the vehicle.
  • Unconsciousness and Subsequent Loss of Control Are Due to Medical Emergency: This factor of the sudden medical emergency defense often involves the use of the driver’s medical records. Typically, the medical condition requires immediate treatment, so healthcare practitioners or emergency medical technicians would include a diagnosis of why the person lost consciousness.

Examples of Sudden Medical Emergencies

Because complete unconsciousness is an essential element of the defense, there are limits to what constitutes a medical emergency. Examples include:

  • Myocardial infarction, commonly termed heart attack;
  • Seizure;
  • Fainting;
  • A sudden drop in blood pressure, often due to a diabetic condition;
  • Stroke, resulting from lack of blood flow to the brain;
  • Mental delusions; or,
  • A reaction to medication.

Maryland Law on Sudden Medical Emergency in Car Accident Cases

Maryland does recognize the defense of sudden medical emergency in auto collision cases, though the concept is derived from case law instead of a statute. In the 1977 case of Moore v. Presnell, the court held that a driver is not liable for injuries in a car accident if her or she is suddenly and unforeseeably incapacitated, either physically or mentally.

The court’s opinion does contain an exception, however. When a motorist has knowledge of a medical condition that may cause unconsciousness, liability may still attach. This result is linked to the “unforeseeable” element: A medical emergency is not truly unexpected if the person knows he or she has an illness that may cause unconsciousness. For instance, if a driver has a history of heart attack, fainting, or diabetes, the sudden medical emergency defense may not apply.

Discuss Your Legal Options with a Maryland Personal Injury Attorney

If you are involved in a car accident in which the other driver alleges a medical emergency, it is critical to retain the services of an experienced lawyer. You can expect that person’s insurance company to aggressively defend its own interests and deny your claim based upon the sudden medical emergency defense. These companies have large, well-staffed legal departments and even larger budgets, so you may be at a disadvantage unless you have a skilled personal injury attorney to fight for your rights. A lawyer can assist you in recovering compensation for such losses as:

  • Medical bills for your treatment, rehabilitation, and ongoing care;
  • Lost wages, if the accident caused you to be out of work for some time;
  • Pain and suffering related to your injuries;
  • Losses regarding your personal relationships with your spouse, children, and other loved ones; and,
  • Other damages depending on your case.

Read Some of Our Recent Client Reviews!

02:32 04 Aug 18
The lawyer who was initially handling my case parted ways with the company and I was assigned a new lawyer. This new lawyer was amazing! Christina Franetovich made me feel secure by double checking all the facts and notes in my case so that I was not worried during this transition. I was on disability from an a different accident while she was finalizing my case, and I had called and hounded her about the time frame of my settlement very frequently to the point that I felt guilty for calling so much. Christina was very sympathetic to my situation and assured me that she would do everything in her power to make sure the situation would be resolved quickly. She actually finalized my case before the time frame she had given me, was always very courteous and knowledgable on the phone, and I feel extremely lucky that she ended up handling my case because the previous lawyer was not as amazing with customer service as Christina. She also has a way of making you feel comfortable and builds incredible rapport quickly. I am going to highly recommend her to my friends and family. Thank you Christina!!!
Andrea Barajas
Andrea Barajas
15:13 16 May 18
My husband and I were in a car accident in August 2017. We contacted Bob Katz team for legal representation in our case. Kristen A. Turner was our paralegal and she was excellent. It took 9 months for us to receive our settlement and Kristen kept us updated throughout this entire process. She was very kind and patient as I happened to have several questions. She always answered my questions promptly and thoroughly. I would highly recommend this firm and Kristen if you are in need of legal assistance.
Richard Hose
Richard Hose
02:26 27 Jun 18
On Feb 23, 2017 I was in a bad accident on the JFX. I had been rear end by another driver. Almost immediately I felt pressured by the other drivers insurance. Everything from wanting a recorded statement; to failing to acknowledge responsibility. No one would answer my questions, nor would anyone take responsibility. I was frustrated and overwhelmed with everyone from the towing company, to the repair shop, to the insurance company nightmare I just entered. I reached out to Attorney Robert Katz and I was assured they were here to help. He provided with some much needed information, and told me not to worry, Sarah his Paralegal would be in touch to help get things moving. Sarah reached out as expected and explained their process and walked me through what my expectations would be. She as well assured me they were here to help me navigate the obstacles. What Sarah really did was so much more than help. She took the stress and burden off my shoulders and assumed ownership for handling everything on my behalf. I knew what to expect, and I received regular updates throughout the entire process. Honestly, I received so much more than I anticipated. Some of the most frustrating items to chase after are medical records and hospital charges. While I was trying to recall events and timelines, she had already obtained my records and information. She made this process so painless. I truly cannot say enough about the exceptional service she provided. Many thanks for all your help. Sincerely, Richard Hose
Claudette Pope
Claudette Pope
13:18 30 Aug 18
I was referred to Gordon & feindblatt in 2014 when my family was in an accident, Mr. Katz personally consulted with me by phone and he was very polite and professional, Mr. Carpuso, one of the litigation attorneys even came out to our home and went over our case with us, he made sure all of our needs was addressed and before he left our home that day I felt like we were old friends. that case was settled and I was very pleased, I have used this law firm twice since then and the results are always the same, I have nothing but great experiences with Gordon & Feindblatt the staff are courteous and professional and they get the job done but the one in particular that really stood out for me is Rebecca Slattery, she is truly a gem, she is so compassionate, she walked me through the entire process, she even checked up on me from time to time just to see how I was feeling and I really appreciated her kindness. I will use this law firm again and again for any future legal issue that may arise and I would highly recommend Gordon & Fiendblatt to friends, family and co-workers.
15:24 09 Feb 18
My experience here was great. My lawyer Rebecca was so professional and I love her personality. She handled my case well and kept me updated and made the process easy and always made me feel comfortable to call whenever I needed to know anything.
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Location: Tysons

Chris Shin
Chris Shin
18:23 20 Jun 18
They were very polite, professional. and informed current status of the case time to time. Great Job !!!
Jonathan Roane
Jonathan Roane
22:51 17 Nov 17
If you ever need any assistance with an accident or injury-related claim this is the firm you need hands down. These are the most professional and caring people I have ever met in my life. Two people you should contact are Rebecca Slattery who was actually my paralegal and also Allan Serrano. You will be in good hands.
Israel Thompson
Israel Thompson
00:52 06 Dec 17
Attorney MR Bob Katz outstanding Human being, went beyond and above to help me during my accident, he showed me tremendous kindness and support.Thank you so much will highly recommend him to anyone who needs help with their auto accident
Marta Kritselis
Marta Kritselis
16:19 01 Sep 17
Rebecca Slattery the paralegal She took care my case and she was very helpful throughout the whole process. I highly recommend to my family and friend the services of Attorney Bob Kats and there team .
Myong Kim
Myong Kim
22:04 31 Mar 17
I am grateful to Bob and Justin Katz and their team for working hard to get me the most money. They were very professional and easy to work with in Korean. I will recommend them to friends and family any chance I have.
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