Sudden Incapacity Defense in Car Accident Lawsuit

This summer, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland released an opinion in the case of Glenn Cooper vs. Richard Singleton. This case concerned a chain reaction accident, where one driver named Cooper slammed into the rear of a vehicle which had stopped at an intersection. This impact caused a chain reaction accident involving six cars. The passengers of the impacted cars (including Singleton) sued Cooper for damages.

Cooper presented a defense of sudden incapacity. This is a defense where if the driver of a motor vehicle “suddenly and unforeseeable becomes physically or mentally incapacitated, he is not liable for injury resulting from the operation of the vehicle.” What does this mean? Cooper would have to prove two things. First, he would have to show that he had a health emergency, which caused the accident. This could be a heart attack, an epileptic seizure, a stroke or some other debilitating medical condition.

The second thing Cooper needed to prove was that this medical condition was unforeseen. For instance, if a person is epileptic, knows they are epileptic, and does not receive proper treatment, they cannot use an epileptic seizure as a defense for sudden incapacity. This defense can only happen if the person is unaware that they have the condition that ultimately causes the incapacity or are being treated for the condition and medical knowledge tells them that it is safe to drive.

The Court ruled that Cooper had shown that he was entitled to the defense of sudden incapacity. He knew he had seizures, but was being treated for the seizures and was well controlled by medication. The seizure he had on the day of the accident was unexpected given his history. Therefore, the Court found that the defense of sudden incapacity was available to Cooper.

Have you been in an accident that was not your fault because of a medical condition? It is very important that you get the correct legal advice to protect you from a law suit, if you had an unexpected medical condition that led to an accident.  Call Baltimore County personal injury lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles at 443-589-0150 or contact us online.

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