NEWS Injury lawyer explains ’emergency medical doctrine’ in New York car crash

Injury lawyer explains 'emergency medical doctrine' in New York car crash

Leandros A. Vrionedes, New York Personal Injury Attorney

Legal news site asks attorney Leandros A. Vrionedes to explain who is at fault if a medical emergency causes a car or truck to collide

As long as the medical emergency was unforeseen, a motorist experiencing a sudden medical emergency will not be considered at fault for causing an accident due to the emergency. “

— Leandros A. Vrionedes, Personal Injury Attorney

NEW YORK, New York, USA, December 20, 2022 / — A recent article from Law Commentary, a legal news, blog, and information site, describes a truck driver who was recently on Grand Avenue in Queens, New York, After hitting a light pole. Police suspect the man was sick while driving, which ultimately led to the fatal crash. The accident came just hours after another truck driver was killed about a mile down the road when a woman lost control of her Chevrolet sedan and swerved into oncoming traffic. Police aren’t sure what caused the woman to lose control. These two tragic accidents raise a complex legal question: If one or both accidents were caused by a heart attack or similar medical event, is anyone to blame?

Under normal circumstances, if a driver swerves into oncoming traffic and causes a crash, they would at least be held liable in civil court, the law review article by Christopher Hazlehurst, JD, explained. In personal injury or wrongful death cases, they will be liable for damages based on the extent of the injury caused. When a driver’s negligence or reckless behavior leads to an accident, the driver is responsible for the resulting damage. They could even be criminally liable for vehicular assault or homicide if they swerve intentionally.

However, if someone has a heart attack while driving, it’s hard to say they “caused” the resulting accident, in a legal sense. Their physical actions caused the crash, but their actions were involuntary. If someone else grabs the driver’s hand and causes the crash, the other actors are indeed to blame even though the driver’s hands are on the wheel. People often don’t take responsibility for things beyond their control.

On the other hand, in some cases even involuntary acts can give rise to liability. For example, if a drunk driver (or even a sober driver) falls asleep at the wheel and they hit another driver, the driver is definitely at fault. It is irrefutable that the driver did not choose to fall asleep, put his foot on the pedal or turn the steering wheel while unconscious. Drunk and drowsy drivers are held accountable by law for choosing to drive in an unsafe state of mind; driving was their genuine wrongdoing that ultimately resulted in a crash.

Are medical emergencies voluntary or involuntary? it depends on. In most states, drivers have a defense to liability for “sudden medical emergencies.” Like being pushed in front of your car, having a heart attack is almost out of your control. If you have a heart attack, stroke, or some other medical emergency while driving, you’re not really responsible for what happens next.

New York personal injury attorney Leandros A. Vrionedes confirms that the “doctrine of medical first aid” is well addressed in New York. “A driver of a motor vehicle who is experiencing a sudden medical emergency cannot be held at fault for causing an accident because of the emergency,” he said, “as long as the medical emergency was unforeseen.” Although New York does not have medical emergency principles statute, but Vrionedes explained that the principle has been upheld in numerous cases in the New York Supreme Court of Appeals.

The problem, however, is that the accident must indeed have been beyond the driver’s control. Drinking and driving is illegal because it creates an unacceptable and foreseeable risk of accident. If drivers know they are at risk for a medical emergency, then, arguably, there is no need for them to drive. Drivers put others on the road at the risk of injury or death, just as they would when they were drunk or about to fall asleep.

Attorney Virionides also described other situations in which the emergency principle might apply in the absence of a medical emergency. He pointed to situations where a pedestrian suddenly sprints into the lane or a vehicle ahead stops suddenly for no reason, forcing the driver to swerve and hit another vehicle. Drivers must still respond reasonably to sudden emergencies on the road; if they overreact and cause a crash, they may be at least partially responsible for the accident.

Liability in these cases often raises the crucial question of foreseeability, which, as lawyer Vrionedes points out, is a necessary element of the New York doctrine. Was the event really sudden and unexpected, or should drivers have anticipated the risk of an emergency? Answering this question requires a solid knowledge of the applicable law, although the exact facts in each case will also be decisive.

The Law Review article concludes that edge cases may become more challenging. What constitutes a foreseeable risk of a medical emergency? Should all people with pacemakers be banned from driving? The answer depends on the extent of the law prescribed by each jurisdiction’s legislature and courts. Whether trying to prove that the driver was at fault or not, the assistance of an attorney who understands the jurisdiction’s emergency principles and applicable case law may be needed.

Leandros A. Vrionedes
Leandros A. Vrionedes, PC
4055900455 extension.
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