Who Is Responsible When a Driver Blacks Out and Causes an Accident With Bodily Injuries?

Driver's Hands on the WheelWhat happens if you cause a car accident because you lose consciousness? Are you responsible for compensating those who are injured? Should the at-fault driver be held liable for consequences of events over which they had no control? Should the innocent accident victim(s) be barred from recovery for their injuries?

The Sudden Medical Emergency Defense

Under Florida law, the operator of a motor vehicle may be held liable for damages when they negligently cause injury to another person in an accident. There are cases in which the driver of a car may claim a sudden and unexpected loss of capacity as a defense to their negligence.

In order to do that, the at-fault driver bears the burden of proving:

  • There was, in fact, a loss of consciousness or capacity suffered by the driver
  • The loss of consciousness happened before the negligent act (this could be failing to brake, running a red light, improperly changing lanes, etc.)
  • The loss of consciousness must have been sudden, and
  • The loss of consciousness was neither foreseen, nor foreseeable

Essentially, this comes down to an argument that the driver who caused the accident could not have reasonably foreseen they would have suddenly passed out. It is a very fact specific defense.

Here is an Example of the Sudden Medical Emergency Defense:

John was driving down Court Street one evening when he suffered a heart attack, blacked out and crossed the median, crashing into Susan, causing serious bodily injuries. If John can show he actually lost consciousness before the accident, the sudden loss of consciousness defense will work in his favor and Susan will not recover her damages.

If, however, John was driving down Court Street after a visit to his cardiologist and the doctor told him he had severe heart problems and shouldn’t be driving because he could pass out at any moment, he’d have a difficult time using the defense. His cardiologist’s warning would be reason for him to anticipate the loss of consciousness, and he would be negligent for driving despite the risk.

If you have or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident, call us. An experienced attorney can help you get the financial compensation that you deserve, allowing you to focus on recovery.

Jim Dodson
A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.