What happens if a person suffers a sudden stroke or heart attack whilst driving that results in an accident causing someone’s death or injury in England?
If the driver had no prior warning of the medical condition and the loss of function was spontaneous, then he/she would have a valid defence for not being in control of his/her actions when the accident occurred.
In order to succeed in a claim for personal injury or death in such circumstances, the victim must prove that there was fault on behalf of the driver – this is, that the accident was preventable because the driver suffered from a previous medical condition or was feeling unwell shortly before the accident. Therefore, victims of such accidents will have to gather extensive evidence in the form of witness statements from passengers and/or independent witnesses, and details of the medical history of the driver who suffered a stroke/heart attack or similar medical condition whilst driving, causing the accident.
For that reason, it is extremely important that drivers check with their doctors when in doubt as to whether they are safe to drive, as failing to do so may leave them liable for both criminal and civil action. In fact, the Government has introduced a law that drivers who fail to report a medical condition that affects their driving to the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (ie. DVLA) can be fined up to £1,000, or be prosecuted if they are involved in an accident as a result Stroke (cerebrovascular accident) and driving – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
If it transpires that the driver had no previous medical condition that would affect his/her ability to drive safely, then the prospects of success of the claim will dramatically drop and the victim may be faced with a complete defence by the driver’s Insurer called “automatism” or involuntary action.
The issue of “no fault accident claims” has been discussed for years and a change in the law has been raised periodically through the Motor Accident Injury Compensation Bill, introduced in both 1998 and 1999, but the law has not been changed to date resulting in innocent victims being left without compensation.
Drivers who suffer a sudden medical condition resulting in the death or injury of others are likely to have a full defence if it transpires that they did not suffer from any previous or preventable medical condition.
In any case, it is for the victims of such accidents to investigate the driver’s medical history and satisfy the court that the driver acted negligently.
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