Determining liability in a car accident can be a complex process. In some cases, the fault may be apparent, but in others, there may be multiple factors that contribute to the accident. One complicating factor is when one of the drivers involved suffers from a medical emergency.
It may be challenging to determine who was at fault in these cases. Was the other driver negligent in not avoiding the accident? Or was the driver with the medical episode knowingly operating a motor vehicle with the risk of an emergency?
The 50 Percent Rule
In some states, pure comparative negligence is applied in personal injury cases. This rule allows a jury to apportion blame among the parties to a lawsuit based on their relative degrees of fault.
However, some states have adopted a modified version of comparative negligence known as the 50 percent rule. Under this rule, a plaintiff can only recover damages if their share of the blame is less than 50 percent. If a jury finds that the plaintiff is more than 50 percent at fault, they will be barred from recovering any damages.
Sudden Loss of Consciousness Defense
Within Tennessee’s modified comparative negligence laws, the state also recognizes a “sudden loss of consciousness” defense for those who suffer medical emergencies resulting in a car accident. In McCall v. Wilder, the Supreme Court of Tennessee found:
“A sudden loss of consciousness or physical capacity experienced while driving which is not reasonably foreseeable is a defense to a negligence action. To constitute a defense, the defendant must establish that the sudden loss of consciousness or physical capacity to control the vehicle was not reasonably foreseeable to a prudent person. As a result, the defense is not available under circumstances in which the defendant was made aware of facts sufficient to lead a reasonably prudent person to anticipate that driving in that condition would likely result in an accident.”
In essence, a person may avoid liability for a car accident if their loss of consciousness could not have been expected. For example, a healthy individual with no history of heart attack who experiences a sudden cardiac arrest may avoid negligence claims. Conversely, someone with a medical history of losing consciousness, someone who has taken medications with known drowsy side effects or someone that has been told by their physician not to operate a motor vehicle may still be found liable for damages in a resulting accident.
Nashville Car Accident Attorneys
At Witherington Injury Law, we have over 20 years of helping individuals injured in car accidents due to someone else’s negligence. We will work with you to understand the specific circumstances of your case and determine who is at fault. We will then build a solid legal case to help you get the compensation you deserve.
For a free initial consultation, call us today at (615) 697-6503 or visit us online.