Motorcycle accidents cause significant harm due to the lack of protection riders have compared to passengers in enclosed vehicles. Therefore, making sure that victims of motorcycle accidents are duly compensated for any injuries or harm that they suffer as a result of such accidents is something that is just and necessary.
The necessity of just compensation and ensuring that those responsible are held liable is further emphasized by the fact that most motorcycle accidents are preventable — just take a look at the statistics. However, there are times when an accident is caused by factors that are beyond the at-fault party’s control. An example of such a factor is a medical emergency. So, can you recover compensation in such a case?
Generally, if you have been injured in a motorcycle accident that was caused by a driver claiming a medical emergency, you may still be able to file a lawsuit and seek compensation.
However, it is important to note that the at-fault driver may be able to use the medical emergency as a legal defense against liability. Here is what you need to know about filing a claim or lawsuit when a medical emergency defense is used.
Overview of Medical Emergency Defense
The medical emergency defense is a legal argument used by at-fault drivers to avoid responsibility after an accident.
For this defense to succeed, the negligent motorist must prove to the court:
- They suddenly experienced an acute medical event that led to abrupt physical incapacitation without warning. This includes unexpected conditions like seizures, diabetic shock, heart attacks, strokes, aneurysms, blood clots, or loss of consciousness from an unknown medical cause.
- The medical emergency was completely unforeseen and unpredictable. There were no early symptoms or signs indicative of a likely impending episode. It occurred rapidly and without the opportunity to anticipate it unfolding.
- After the medical event began, they lost voluntary control and consciousness so quickly that they did not have sufficient time to safely steer to the roadside or engage emergency flashers before the collision occurred.
Essentially the defense claims the accident was realistically unavoidable and no amount of responsible caution could have prevented it. If the defense presents convincing evidence and the court accepts their argument, the at-fault motorist shields themselves from any liability or responsibility since the incident was essentially an act of unavoidable nature rather than negligent driving.
However, they may still face criminal charges for driving with a known serious medical condition. And you as the victim may still retain certain options to potentially recover damages through other legal avenues. These will be covered in detail in the following sections.
Factors That Strengthen a Medical Emergency Defense
Several key factors tend to bolster a driver’s medical emergency defense and make it more likely to withstand legal scrutiny:
- Lack of prior knowledge – The driver has no history of seizures, loss of consciousness, strokes, or other debilitating conditions. The medical event came without warning, making it impossible to anticipate.
- Physician testimony – The at-fault motorist provides testimony from a medical professional confirming the medical event and stating it occurred suddenly without reasonable ability to predict its onset.
- Driving precautions – Evidence proves the driver did take basic precautions before driving, like eating properly, taking necessary medications, bringing emergency medical items, or avoiding driving at very early/late night hours when an attack would be more likely. This demonstrates responsible conduct, bolstering the argument that the episode was unavoidable.
- The short timeframe of incapacitation – Medical data indicates the total time frame from onset of symptoms to complete loss of control only spanned seconds. This suggests that even an extremely alert driver would not have enough time to prevent an accident by pulling over.
- Cooperation with authorities – The motorist immediately reported the medical condition to police when able and complied fully with investigative inquiries, instead of evading responsibility. Their willingness to transparently discuss what happened lends more credibility.
If several or all of these factors are present, the defense tends to succeed since it leaves little doubt about the driver’s lack of fault due to an unpreventable medical event.
Can I Still File a Lawsuit Against the At-Fault Driver?
Yes, you can still file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault motorist even if they claim a medical emergency defense. However, your chances of recovering compensation through legal action will depend heavily on certain aspects of the accident and defense:
Type & Credibility of Medical Emergency Claimed
- Temporary loss of consciousness from a clear trigger like hypoglycemia or dehydration – is very difficult to overcome this defense, especially since these conditions are hard to predict.
- Long-term impairments like epilepsy or strokes the driver was aware of but ignored – may still be able to successfully sue if you can demonstrate negligence by disregarding medical risks and not taking reasonable precautions.
Reliability & Strength of Defense’s Evidence
- Police report narrative clearly confirming sudden seizure, heart attack, or aneurysm – such officer-corroborated emergencies pose very significant challenges to your lawsuit’s success.
- No firsthand witnesses or documented medical history corroborating the claimed condition before the incident – a questionable defense opens ample opportunity for your attorney to scrutinize its legitimacy during litigation and settlement talks.
Viability of Demonstrating Driver Negligence
Even when a medical emergency appears to be validated, you may still possibly win your injury claim by adducing evidence that proves the elements of negligence.
Typically, in the case of an emergency defense, this entails providing convincing evidence the driver acted negligently and irresponsibly by:
- Failing to carry emergency medical items as prescribed by a physician
- Choosing to drive without a licensed passenger present in case of incapacitation
- Deciding to operate a vehicle against direct guidance from their healthcare providers
- Consciously disregarding likely emergency warning signs that occurred earlier in the day but still driving.
If your legal team can demonstrate negligence and irresponsibility leading up to the accident, you may still succeed in overcoming a medical emergency defense and compelling the court to award damages. Thoroughly discuss the specifics of your accident and options to build a negligence argument with your attorney during an initial consultation.
Is Pursuing Legal Action Still Worthwhile?
Even if the chances of fully defeating a medical emergency defense seem doubtful due to strong evidence backing it up, moving forward with a motorcycle injury lawsuit or settlement demand may still prove worthwhile for several reasons:
- The threat of civil action often motivates the at-fault driver’s auto insurer to offer a settlement, even for disputed claims. This guarantees some level of compensation for your damages without undergoing the risks and delays of trial.
- If litigation compels the defense to settle before trial or a court finds in your favor, the final compensation amount could greatly help cover medical bills, lost income, motorcycle repair/replacement costs, pain and suffering, and other expenses stemming from the collision.
- By filing an injury lawsuit after the accident, your legal team launches extensive pre-trial information sharing and evidence gathering known as discovery. This investigation mechanism may reveal additional proof the driver acted negligently or continued driving against medical advice. Such evidence can then be utilized to attempt to defeat the medical emergency defense.
- Contingency fee billing arrangements mean that consulting and hiring an experienced motorcycle accident attorney costs nothing upfront. Legal fees only come from any settlement award or court verdict you win.
While the unique circumstances and strength of evidence for every motorcycle injury claim differ, often the smartest legal path is to pursue compensation for injuries even against a claimed medical emergency defense. Thoroughly going over your situation with a qualified personal injury lawyer allows developing an optimal legal strategy.
What Compensation Options Exist if the Defense Succeeds?
If the at-fault party provides convincing evidence about an unforeseen medical event that could not be reasonably prevented, their defense will likely succeed. Unfortunately, this leaves you unable to recover damages through a liability lawsuit against the driver.
However, there are still some possible options to potentially receive financial compensation for your accident injuries and losses, even if the court excludes the motorist from fault:
The Driver’s Insurance Policy Liability Coverage
Most policies include medical payments coverage and personal injury protection (PIP) that cover medical expenses for injuries caused by their insured driver, regardless of fault. However, available payouts under these no-fault type options tend to be low.
Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage
If you carry UIM/UM coverage on your own auto insurance policy, these will financially protect you if injured by a motorist with insufficient or no liability insurance available. Just like standard medical payments coverage, UIM/UM coverage limits are usually inadequate for anything beyond minor collisions.
Short & Long-term Disability Insurance
If you have existing disability insurance policies (either privately purchased or employer-provided), the wage replacement benefits they supply can help partially make up for income lost during recovery and inability to work.
No-Fault Accident Coverage
A small minority of states have strict “no-fault” car insurance systems. These laws guarantee minimal automatic accident injury compensation from your own insurer after certain types of collisions regardless of fault determination. However, no-fault insurance payouts only cover costs until a liability claim can be asserted and often carry low caps.
While none of these options fully compensate for accident damages or guarantee sufficient funds in serious injury cases, they do offer some degree of financial help. A knowledgeable attorney can advise whether utilizing any third-party insurance coverage or no-fault benefits could provide some incremental compensation absent a successful liability claim.
What Steps Should You Take After a Medical Emergency Defense is Used?
If the at-fault motorist claims their negligent actions were unavoidable due to an unforeseen medical emergency, here are the smart action steps to take:
Report the Accident and Promptly Get Examined by a Doctor
You need to report the motorcycle collision to the police immediately so there is an official record and charges can be filed if laws were broken by the motorist driving with a known serious condition. Make sure to inform officers about the driver stating it was caused by a sudden medical event. Also, visit the emergency room without delay following the crash and thoroughly document all physical injuries with physicians. Failing to get promptly treated or obtain a contemporaneous medical evaluation that confirms your injuries makes proving damages later difficult.
Contact an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Immediately
You should consult with a qualified motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible after an incident where the motorist claims a medical emergency. A lawyer can objectively examine the initial evidence and provide expert guidance on the viability of filing an injury lawsuit or forcing a swift settlement given the usage of a medical emergency defense. Retaining skilled legal counsel quickly also ensures the attorney can immediately launch a thorough independent investigation before evidence disappears.
Direct Your Attorney to Gather Broad Evidence Related to Fault and Damages
Your lawyer’s skilled legal team will promptly gather extensive evidence related to liability and losses stemming from the collision. This can include securing police reports before inaccuracies emerge, collecting ambulance records and medical documents that chronicle the treatment timeline, taking eyewitness statements soon after the crash while memories remain fresh, consulting independent medical experts to evaluate injuries, having qualified engineers reconstruct the collision scene digitally to identify negligence, and compiling evidence of lost income due to inability to work.
Casting a wide net to collect documentation related to liability and damages bolsters the prospect of eventually defeating a medical emergency defense. It also ensures you have proof to claim compensation through other avenues even if the defense succeeds.
Cautiously Evaluate Any Settlement Offers Received
If the defense seems poised to prevail at trial, often the insurance company for an at-fault motorist will present a settlement offer to avoid litigation. Analyze any offers carefully alongside your attorney before accepting, as you may sign away your rights to seek additional compensation for developing health issues later on. Signing a settlement also brings legal finality, closing off avenues like seeking punitive damages if additional facts about egregious negligence emerge over time.
Seriously Consider Taking Formal Legal Action Anyway
While the chances of defeating a medical emergency defense may seem slim, formally filing a personal injury lawsuit allows your legal team to zealously argue against it during settlement talks and in court. Even evidence and testimony that appear very convincing can crumble under rigorous scrutiny and opposition investigation. Filing a suit also formally compels the defense to share medical documentation and answer questions under oath during discovery instead of withholding inconvenient facts. And in rare cases, even an airtight defense can run into unexpected evidentiary issues at trial that turn the tide for you.
Pursuing a claim through demand letters alone or seeking an informal settlement allows the defense too much control and opportunities to hide evidence. The adversarial atmosphere inherent to a lawsuit prevents this.
In short, consider litigating strategically instead of avoiding legal filings even if the defense outwardly promotes medical reasons for the accident. An unwavering stigma still exists against filing lawsuits, but this hesitance can greatly handicap your position in recovering fair damages, especially when up against a practiced defense team. Your attorney exists to handle legal complexities so you can avoid directly confronting the defense. Let them take action while you focus on recovering from your injuries.
Looking Ahead After The Defense is Used
Even after taking smart initial steps to protect your legal rights, doubts, uncertainty, and frustration often set in when weeks go by without updates after a medical emergency defense surfaces.
Here is what typically happens beyond the initial accident aftermath if this defense is utilized:
Defense Requests Access To Your Medical History
Expect the insurance provider defending the at-fault motorist to request access to elements of your medical history. While it feels like an invasion of privacy, this allows verifying any preexisting health issues don’t complicate evaluating new accident-caused injuries. However, strictly limit release only to records directly relevant to injuries claimed.
Independent Medical Exams May Be Required
The defense often requests an independent physician conduct another examination to confirm your injury claims. While uncomfortable dealing with more doctors poking and prodding, comply politely. Negative impressions or interference only bolster challenges against your health claims later on.
Lengthy Delays Are Commonplace
Even straightforward injury cases with cooperative defendants tend to drag on for many months. Fighting an intense legal defense like a medical emergency claim almost always extends the timeline further through lengthy delays by the defense attorney missing filings, constantly rescheduling meetings, or intentionally stalling.
Be Prepared To Rebuff Lowball Offers
Expect predatory settlement offers that attempt to pay pennies compared to actual costs. Early lowball amounts test your nerve and lack of legal skill. Know that receiving an insultingly small offer means the defense actually worries about losing in court.
Emotional Stress Builds Over Time
The drawn-out legal dance combined with painful medical treatments and financial worries often generates fears about getting fair compensation. This is precisely the defense’s goal – stretch cases out long enough to induce accepting peanuts to escape the anguish. Don’t let those feelings guide your actions.
By understanding these common legal tactics and timeline realities ahead of time, you can take proactive steps to safeguard your rights in the aftermath of a debilitating motorcycle crash. The defense hopes playing delay games tires you out. Don’t let them win through attrition.
While the medical emergency defense poses genuine legal challenges after a negligent driver causes debilitating injuries in a motorcycle crash, do not immediately assume it eliminates all possibility of receiving fair compensation.
Skilled personal injury legal advocates have tools to demonstrate negligence preceding the supposed emergency, utilize insurance coverages beyond liability policies, and still negotiate fiercely even against problematic defenses. Thoroughly discuss your unique situation during a free case consultation with an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer before deciding whether filing a lawsuit or settlement demand still offers a credible chance at recovery given the defense’s arguments. With fierce advocacy and intricate legal strategy built around understanding both the strengths and flaws of a medical emergency claim, justice may still yet prevail.
Don’t leave money on the table simply because convincing a single judge or jury appears difficult at first glance.