Sudden Medical Emergency Defense

By Josh Silverman on May 21, 2013


The recent tragic car accident in Damascus, Virginia involving an elderly driver who injured approximately 50 people watching a parade may be defended under the "sudden emergency doctrine."  In Virginia it is very rare that an accident can be deemed no fault, but a sudden medical emergency may qualify.  The burden falls on the defendant to show that the accident was due to a sudden medical emergency and that it was unforeseeable.  In past cases, I have defeated the sudden medical emergency doctrine by showing that the defendant knew that he or she had a medical condition that could cause an accident.  For example, in one case a defendant claimed he passed out prior to the accident.  By subpoenaing his medical records I was able to show that he was a diabetic and had not been properly managing his blood sugar. In another case, the defendant was driving despite a known heart condition that put her at risk for passing out.

The burden is ultimately on the defendant to prove that the accident was due to a sudden medical emergency once the plaintiff has made a prima facie case of negligence.

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