Marcum v. Hayward – The “Sudden Loss of Consciousness” Defense

If you’ve been injured in an automobile accident, guidance and representation by a reputable South Florida personal injury attorney like Robert Dixon can make all the difference.  Robert Dixon understands that an automobile accident can be a traumatic event which is why he is committed to handling your claim for you.

Sometimes, the cause of an accident is clear and ascertaining fault is easy. For example, a driver failing to observe a stop sign, driving at excessively high speeds or swerving in and out of lanes can lead to a reasonable allocation of fault. In Florida, the driver deemed to be negligent is liable for injuries and any damage that results from the accident. However, the issue of liability can become more complicated if the cause of the accident was the driver suffering from an unforeseeable medical episode behind the wheel.

In Marcum v. Hayward, the plaintiff was rear-ended at a red light. The driver of the other vehicle was an assistant manager driving a company vehicle with a coworker as a passenger. The driver later testified that she had momentarily blacked out, woke up, and then lost consciousness again just immediately prior to the accident. The coworker and passenger confirmed that the driver had stated she felt “funny” and then suddenly became unconscious, which ultimately caused the accident.

After the accident, the plaintiff got out of her vehicle and approached the other car.  The plaintiff realized that the driver of the other car was having a seizure.

The plaintiff later sued the driver, her employer and their insurance companies for injuries sustained in the accident.

The Court dismissed plaintiff’s claims, stating that the driver could not be held responsible for the accident when the driver lost consciousness in an unforeseeable manner. Under Florida law, a person is not considered to be negligent if he or she suddenly and unexpectedly loses consciousness and the incident was unforeseeable. In order to win under this defense, the defendant must prove the following four elements:

  1. He or she suffered a loss of consciousness;
  2. That the loss of consciousness happened before the accident or alleged negligent act;
  3. That it was sudden;
  4. That it was unexpected and unforeseeable.

Here, the District Court found that the driver had proven her defense by showing that she had suffered a seizure immediately prior to the accident, which caused her to suddenly lose consciousness and subsequently lose control of the car. Since the driver met the standard of proof, the District Court ruled in her favor.

The fact that the driver had never suffered a seizure prior to the accident also helped her defense because there would be no way for her to anticipate or recognize what the onset of a seizure would feel like.

Under Florida law, there are number legal defenses that may be relevant to your case. This is why it is crucial to consult a knowledgeable attorney about your options so you can make the best decisions for yourself in the aftermath of the accident. If you or someone you know has recently been injured in a car accident, contact the Law Offices of Robert Dixon.  Call us today at our toll free number at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online to schedule a free, no obligation consultation.

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