Incapacitated Drivers Threaten Others Says Boca Car Accident Lawyer Joe Osborne

By Osborne & Francis
October 25, 2023

Drivers who suddenly suffer medical emergencies may cause about 9000 accidents a year in Florida says Boca car accident lawyer Joe Osborne.

A driver facing a health crisis behind the wheel may only have partial control of the vehicle or none at all. Hopefully he or she will be able to safely pull over and get medical help. All too often it’s not the driver stopping the car, it stops because it hits an object or another vehicle. If such an accident occurs multiple people could be facing health crises due to injuries says Boca car accident lawyer Joe Osborne.

This type of car accident is not uncommon.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) studied a sample of 5,471 accidents that occurred nationwide from July 2005 through December 2007. It found that 2.4% of the accidents were caused by drivers having heart attacks or other physical impairments while driving.

Though the dangers of people falling asleep behind the wheel are better known, NHTSA found they were only a slightly greater risk, causing 3.2% of the accidents. Other conditions and factors similarly related to accidents as an incapacitated driver include driving when it’s snowing or sleeting (2.7%), at dusk (2.6%), while changing lanes (2.1%), swerving to avoid another vehicle (3%) and poor road conditions (2%).

During that time frame there were 2,041,943 accidents across the country. NHTSA estimates 48,822 of them were caused by incapacitated drivers. In Florida in 2015 there were 374,342 traffic accidents. If NHTSA’s estimate of the share of accidents caused by incapacitated drivers is accurate, almost 9,000 of those accidents were related to drivers suddenly too ill to drive. That would mean about 25 accidents a day were caused by incapacitated drivers in Florida in 2015.

There are real people behind these numbers. Last month two men were killed in an accident in Palm Beach County that involved a driver possibly suddenly incapacitated by a health issue. It happened on the Florida Turnpike, according to the Miami Herald.

One driver pulled his pickup truck, with a trailer attached, onto the right shoulder of the northbound lanes. He got out of the vehicle and was next to the trailer when he was hit by a tractor trailer.

The Florida Highway Patrol believe the truck driver may have suffered a medical problem while driving, causing it to hit the victim and his pickup, then the truck continued and struck a chain link fence. The first driver was killed at the scene. The truck driver later died at St. Mary’s Hospital in West Palm Beach.In these types of situations the driver suddenly too ill to drive is not necessarily at fault when it comes to a legal action seeking compensation for injuries to victims. Under Florida law the driver may have a valid defense if,

  • The defendant suffered a loss of consciousness or capacity.
  • That loss occurred before the defendant's allegedly negligent conduct (such as striking another vehicle).
  • The loss was sudden.
  • The loss was not foreseen by the driver nor could the driver have foreseen it.

This defense wouldn’t apply if the driver was aware of facts sufficient to cause a reasonably prudent person to anticipate that he or she might lose consciousness or become incapacitated while driving and that driving or operating a vehicle under the circumstances would likely result in an accident.

In such a case the driver’s medical history would be key to the case, including what the person may have been diagnosed with, his or her medications or treatments, and whether the person was warned he or she may suddenly lose control or consciousness or that it was unsafe to drive.If you or a loved one suffered an injury caused by a driver who suddenly became incapacitated, contact Boca car accident lawyer Joe Osborne at (561) 293-2600 or fill out this online contact form. You can discuss your case, how the law may apply and your best legal options to protect your rights and obtain compensation for your injuries.

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