Recently, the residents of a small apartment building on West Drexel Avenue in San Antonio received a rude awakening when a pickup truck crashed into the building. The driver allegedly claimed no knowledge of how he got there, and law enforcement saw no evidence of alcohol or other substances. Currently, the incident is being explained by the driver suffering a medical episode. However, if you ever are in this type of situation, it can be extremely confusing and disconcerting, especially if medical episodes are a common thing for you. It can ease your mind to have a clear picture of your liability compared to others.
Negligence Requires Voluntary Action
Torts are basically the civil equivalent of crimes, and if someone has committed a tort under Texas law, it can generally be held that they have acted negligently. In most car accident cases, at least one of the drivers can be shown to have been negligent in their actions, and negligence is what most often triggers liability. In other words, if a plaintiff can show that the defendant did not exercise reasonable care in their actions, they may wind up being held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries and suffering.
However, if someone has a medical episode while driving, in theory, they have not been negligent because the medical episode was not a conscious action they chose to make. Negligence requires conscious, voluntary action (or inaction) – in other words, a person has to knowingly act in a specific way before they can be accused of negligence. Having a medical episode is not an “action” – it is something that one’s body or brain does on its own. The question after this type of accident is usually whether or not anyone at all can be held liable.
The “Sudden Emergency” Defense
In the event of an accident like this, Texas law does allow for affirmative defenses to be asserted (an affirmative defense is an explanation that can totally or partially remove a defendant from liability), and one of them is referred to as the “sudden emergency defense.” The sudden emergency defense, also referred to as the Act of God defense, holds that a defendant who experiences a sudden emergency is not liable for injuries or property damage if the defense can be proven to the court’s satisfaction.
There are four points that a defendant has to show in order for the defense to be potentially relevant to a court: (1) the situation must be sudden and unexpected (i.e., not “foreseeable”); (2) the situation is not the fault of the defendant; (3) that any reasonable person would have assumed the situation called for quick action, without debate; and (4) that the defendant acted reasonably under the circumstances. While medical episode-related accidents are comparatively rare, it is still worth noting that foreseeability and reasonableness still govern many of the decisions that those involved might have made.
Call a New Braunfels Personal Injury Attorney
While no one appears to have been harmed in the West Drexel Road accident, the next person might conceivably not be so lucky. If you suffer medical episodes, you need to know your options if you are insistent upon driving instead of using transport. The skilled New Braunfels personal injury lawyers at the Bettersworth Law Firm understand wanting to be aware of potential issues and will work hard to assist you with any questions that you may have. Call our office today at 888-392-0039 to schedule a free consultation.