Medical Crisis Causes Car to Collide with a Bus

Who is liable when a medical emergency causes a motor vehicle accident?

A fatal collision between a car and bus is now believed to have been caused by a medical emergency.  The crash occurred at about 11 a.m. in Anaheim.  The 60-year-old driver of a Toyota Avalon was traveling on Harbor Boulevard when suddenly, instead of navigating a bend to the right, the car continued straight into oncoming traffic.  It spun out of control and hit an Orange County Transportation Authority bus that had just pulled away from a stop.  The driver of the car did not survive the high impact collision and 14 people aboard the bus required hospital care.  Now, additional investigations have revealed that the driver of the wrong-way car was likely experiencing a medical crisis.

California’s Doctrine of Imminent Peril

Heart attacks, strokes, and seizures are just a few of the potential medical urgencies that could cause a driver to get into a car accident.  While generally, we hold individuals accountable for the car accident related damages they inflict, exceptions exist for injuries caused due to medical emergencies.  Most states have adopted some form of defense for drivers who are stricken by a medical illness.  If this defense is asserted, the otherwise at-fault driver may be partially or totally excused from liability for the crash.

California recognizes the “doctrine of imminent peril.”  Under this doctrine, a person confronted with a sudden emergency will be held to a lesser standard of care under the circumstances.  For instance, a driver who suddenly has a heart attack, which could not be anticipated, and is rendered incapable of controlling the car may not the liable for the accident that results.

Importantly, the doctrine of imminent peril will not apply if the driver caused or contributed to the peril.  If you are injured a car accident and the defendant raises the defense of imminent peril, it may be important to examine the circumstances surrounding the medical condition that lead to the crash.  For instance, if the driver had a known medical condition that made driving dangerous, but he or she continued to drive nonetheless, the doctrine of imminent peril may not be applicable.   Contact a Los Angeles car accident attorney for experienced assistance with your car accident case.