If someone else’s negligence causes you to be injured in an accident, the path forward toward your fullest recovery involves you seeking compensation for the losses you’ve suffered, a challenging process in the best of times. If the at-fault party – and, by extension, their insurance company – claims not to be responsible due to a sudden medical emergency, the matter becomes that much more complex. Working closely with an experienced Austin personal injury attorney is always in your best interest.
What’s In This Guide
- What’s Meant by a Medical Emergency in This Context
- The Sudden Emergency Doctrine
- A Shift in Burden of Proof
- Defending Your Legal Rights
What’s Meant by a Medical Emergency in This Context
If the insurance company and the other party claim that the accident was caused by a medical emergency, it makes your path forward toward recovery even more arduous. What the other side is getting at is that the injury-causing accident – such as a traffic accident of some kind – wasn’t caused by their negligence but was, instead, a result of a sudden medical emergency that they can’t have predicted. For example, if a driver has a stroke or heart attack behind the wheel and causes a dangerous accident in the process, it may diminish their liability in the matter – but it may not. If the defendant had a health condition that left them susceptible to such health concerns and they had been warned of potential consequences by a medical professional, their liability in the matter can hold. Needless to say, it’s complicated.
The Sudden Emergency Doctrine
The State of Texas, like most other states, employs what is known as a sudden emergency doctrine, which comes into play when an emergency arises out of nowhere that is not a result of negligence on the part of the person who experiences it and that they had no reasonable opportunity to deliberate and address safely. In such situations, the person who experiences the sudden emergency is not deemed negligent in their failure to use all due care (if other reasonable people in similar situations will have acted similarly).
The elements of sudden emergency include:
- The emergency condition in question must have arisen suddenly.
- The emergency condition in question must have been unexpected.
- The emergency condition in question mustn’t have been caused by negligence (or omission) on the part of the person who experienced it.
- The conduct of the person responding to the emergency condition (which will have been deemed negligent under ordinary circumstances) was a result of them having no time to deliberate a safe alternative.
It’s important to note, however, that just because a defendant claims that the accident was caused by a medical emergency does not make it so.
A Shift in Burden of Proof
If you are injured by someone else’s negligence, the burden of proof is generally on you, which amounts to presenting a preponderance of the evidence in support of the other party’s fault in the matter. A preponderance of the evidence means that your claim is more likely true than not true, which is a fairly low legal bar. If, however, the other party uses a sudden emergency defense to deny their liability in the matter, the burden of proof shifts to them (and the insurance company covering the claim).
Proving Medical Emergency
To successfully claim that an accident was caused by a medical emergency, the other party must prove that there was no way of knowing about or predicting the emergency ahead of time. Doing so involves sharing extensive medical records and can include eyewitness testimony (such as from another passenger in the at-fault driver’s vehicle if the accident in question was a car accident). Your knowledgeable personal injury attorney will go about obtaining the other party’s medical records in an attempt to demonstrate that the emergency in question was, indeed, foreseeable.
Consider a driver who has diabetes, who has been warned by his doctor to monitor his blood sugar levels carefully, and who gets behind the wheel after experiencing the onset of illness. If this driver suffers hypoglycemia and causes a dangerous accident in the process, his denial of liability due to a sudden emergency is very unlikely to prevail.
Defending Your Legal Rights
If you are injured by someone else’s negligence, you have the right to seek compensation for your covered losses (or legal damages). If the other party denies liability as a result of a medical emergency, the significant burden of proof shifts to them. There are several categories of loss that are common to personal injury claims, and that should all be well represented in yours.
The medical bills associated with a serious injury are likely to be extensive, and your claim should also take any ongoing healthcare needs and secondary health conditions into consideration. Common medical expenses include:
- Emergency care and transportation
- Surgical care and hospitalization
- Medical treatments, tests, and procedures
- Care from doctors and specialists
- Physical or occupational therapy
- Chiropractic care
- Pain management
While you are recovering from your injuries, you’re going to need time off the job, which means lost wages. If your earning potential is affected, the financial losses are even more considerable.
Pain and Suffering
Another aspect of your losses that you should not lose sight of is the tremendous physical and emotional pain and suffering you’ve been forced to endure.
An Experienced Austin Personal Injury Attorney Is Standing by to Help
If the person who caused you to be harmed is hiding behind the claim of a medical emergency, the savvy Austin personal injury attorneys at The Patel Firm are well suited to the task of defending your rights and getting to the bottom of the other party’s claim. Often, sudden emergency excuses are just that – excuses – and liability remains intact. To learn more about how we can help you, please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 361-400-2036 today.