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Auto Accident Blog

Sudden Incapacity - Part 2

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

In my case, the claim was that the driver had been ill and passed out due to dehydration. I filed a lawsuit for my client and began the discovery process. I retained a medical expert to review the driver's medical records, which were inconsistent with someone who passed out due to dehydration. When I took the deposition of the driver, she admitted that she was not feeling well when she decided to drive, and that she rolled her window down to help her to stay alert. She was tired, and knew she was at risk for falling asleep.

After her deposition, we were able to rebut the defendant's claim that she passed out due to dehydration; her claim was more consistent with her falling asleep, and her medical records did not support a claim of dehydration. More importantly, after her deposition, it was clear that her incapacity was foreseeable; she knew she was at risk of losing consciousness, but instead of pulling over, she rolled the windows down to help her stay alert.

In the end, the defendant's defense of sudden incapacity failed, and we were able to get a very positive result for our client.

Sudden Incapacity - Part 1

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

I recently handled a case where my client was traveling down the road, minding his own business, when suddenly, and without warning, a car traveling in the opposite direction crossed the center line and hit him head-on. The impact was big, and my client suffered significant and permanent injuries. When the police arrived, it was clear what happened, the vehicles were in my client’s lane; you would think this would be an easy case on the issue of liability. It was not.

I opened a claim for my client with the other driver’s insurance company, and to my surprise, I received a written denial. According to the insurance adjustor, their driver had suffered from dehydration, which caused her to pass out at the wheel. They were raising the defense of sudden incapacity, sometimes referred to as sudden medical emergency.

Sudden incapacity is a complete defense, meaning, if a defendant can prove that they suddenly became incapacitated and that the incapacity was not foreseeable, they are not responsible for whatever injury they cause. For example, if a person has a heart attack or stroke while driving, they cannot be found negligent nor held responsible if they cause a motor vehicle collision. The exception is that if they knew or should have known it was unsafe for them to drive, then they cannot raise the defense. That means if someone with a seizure disorder knows they might have a seizure, but decides to drive anyway, and then has a seizure causing a collision, the driver can be held liable.

Child Safety Seats

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Car seats for children have been around since at least the 1930s, but they weren't necessarily designed for safety, they were more for child storage. Over times the seats evolved and relics such as travel cribs for your car fell out of use.

In the 1970s, when I was a child, it was not unusual for people to not wear seatbelts. In fact, when I was young, I would often sit on the floor in the back of the car or lie across the entire back seat. We didn't have child safety seats. When the 1980s came, my family switched to always using seatbelts. It’s almost funny, looking at the current seatbelt law and remembering my childhood, because I specifically recall being strapped into the middle seat in the back of a car, two kids to a single seatbelt. But I can barely remember seeing car seats.

As time has passed, we've learned a lot about safety, and the importance of car seats. Child safety seats are mandatory in Maryland. This means that if you are transporting a child under the age of 8, in a vehicle, that child must be in a child safety seat, unless the child is 57 inches or taller. Children under 16 years of age must be transported in a car seat (that law really says that), or they must wear a seat belt.

Move it on Over, Slide it on Over

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

The law regarding a driver’s duty relating to emergency vehicles changed in October of 2018. On the approach of an emergency vehicle with lights a sirens, you are required to pull to the side of the road and let the emergency vehicle pass. Everyone knows that. The change to the law, is what has been described as the "Move Over" law.

Motorists in Maryland now have a duty to, as the classic artist George Thorogood might describe it, "move it on over, slide it on over." Or more specifically, when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped on the highway, with its lights flashing, you must, if possible, make a lane change to an available lane that is not directly adjacent to the emergency vehicle.

The failure to make the required lane change carries a one point and a fine from $110 to $750 fine.

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