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A medical emergency does not always negate negligence

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2023 | Personal Injury |

Personal injury cases usually center on negligence. Negligence is the legal theory that obligates people who owe a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid causing harm to others. The duty of a driver is to drive with reasonable care to avoid hurting other people on the road.

When a driver has a sudden heart attack or seizure, they cannot be held accountable for negligence because it is a medical emergency. They had no way to know it would happen, and no person under similar circumstances could have prevented it.

Edward Laidley lost consciousness on the wheel because of severe sleep apnea, and he ended up rear-ending a bus. Because of the accident, the bus driver sustained “serious injuries to his neck, back, legs, head, shoulders, and other parts of his body.” The court later determined that Laidley was negligent in driving.

How was he negligent despite his medical condition?

At first, a district court judge found that Edward Laidley was not negligent because he suffered a “sudden, unforeseeable medical emergency.” Therefore, Laidley was not liable for the accident and the bus driver’s injuries. The Massachusetts Appeals Court returned the case to a lower court because it believed the district court overlooked significant issues and facts.

The lower court found Laidley to be negligent and liable for the accident because his medical condition would have caused him to feel extremely drowsy before losing consciousness. Despite his excessive sleepiness, Laidley still chose to continue to drive. He could have parked his vehicle at a safe location and slept. Any reasonable driver under the same circumstances should have known their extreme sleepiness or fatigue made it dangerous to operate a vehicle.

The significance of establishing negligence

If the appeals court did not return the case to a lower court, the bus driver may not have been able to hold Laidley responsible for the accident. Plaintiffs do not always get the opportunity to appeal. Therefore, establishing negligence with material evidence is crucial when preparing for a personal injury lawsuit.