Skip to Content
Home » Blog » What Is A Sudden Medical Emergency Defense In Florida?


What Is A Sudden Medical Emergency Defense In Florida?

on  Car Accidents

You’ve been hurt in a car accident, and it wasn’t your fault. You believe the other driver’s negligence caused the accident, but now their insurance company is using the sudden medical emergency defense to avoid liability. They argue that it wasn’t negligence but an unexpected emergency. What can you do? How can you collect the money you need to recover?

Fortunately, an experienced Florida car accident lawyer can help you when the insurance company uses the sudden medical emergency defense to avoid liability. Without an attorney on your side, you may not recover the money you need to pay your medical bills and other damages. 

What is the Sudden Medical Emergency Doctrine?

Sometimes, unforeseen medical emergencies happen while diving. This can create a horrific situation where drivers can’t think through their decisions, and accidents can result. The sudden medical emergency doctrine acknowledges that individuals confronted with unexpected medical issues should not be held to the same standard of care as those who act negligently.

Insurance companies may employ this defense to mitigate their client’s liability, provided certain conditions are met:

  • Existence of an Emergency: The emergency must genuinely exist or reasonably appear to exist.
  • No Contribution to the Emergency: The defendant should not have played a role in causing or contributing to the emergency.
  • Multiple Courses of Action: There must have been more than one possible course of action available to the defendant.
  • Reasonable Response: A key criterion is whether a reasonable person, facing similar circumstances, would have taken the same action as the defendant.

Comparing Sudden Emergency Defense to Normal Standard of Care

In the world of personal injury law, there are differences between the normal standard of care and the sudden emergency doctrine. These differences can have a significant impact on your personal injury lawsuit and your ability to collect the compensation you need. 

The Normal Standard of Care

The normal standard of care asks the question: “What would a typical, prudent person do when faced with similar circumstances?” When assessing whether a driver was negligent in causing an accident, the court will consider whether a reasonable person, obeying traffic laws and taking necessary precautions, would have avoided the collision.

For example, if a driver ran a red light and caused an accident, the courts would hold them negligent because a reasonable person would’ve stopped at the red light and avoided a collision. 

The Sudden Medical Emergency Doctrine’s Different Standard

Now, here’s where the sudden medical emergency doctrine distinguishes itself. It acknowledges that not all situations are created equal, especially when unexpected medical emergencies arise on the road. Under this doctrine, individuals going through a medical emergency or transporting someone with a medical emergency are not held to the same stringent standard of care as other drivers.

The sudden medical emergency doctrine recognizes that people might react instinctively in high-pressure, split-second scenarios, even if their actions deviate from the “reasonable person” standard. It allows for more leniency in evaluating the actions of individuals facing these emergencies. The critical criteria revolve around whether the medical emergency genuinely existed or reasonably appeared to exist, whether the defendant contributed to its creation, and whether a reasonable person in the same situation would have taken a similar course of action.

In essence, the sudden medical emergency doctrine acknowledges that the standard of care can shift in response to the urgency and unexpected nature of the circumstances. It offers a more forgiving perspective when evaluating the actions of those facing life-or-death situations on the road.

Examples of the Sudden Medical Emergency Doctrine in Real-Life Scenarios

The sudden emergency doctrine acknowledges that real-life emergencies demand immediate and often unconventional responses. It offers legal protection to individuals in these high-pressure situations, recognizing that the “reasonable person” standard may not always apply when split-second decisions can make the difference between safety and harm. 

Here are some of the most common real-life scenarios where an insurance company might use the sudden medical emergency defense. 

  • Brain aneurism
  • Stroke
  • Choking
  • Seizure
  • Heart attack
  • Fainting or blacking out
  • Passenger medical emergency

Fighting Back Against the Sudden Medical Emergency Defense

While the sudden medical emergency defense can be a powerful argument, there are ways to fight back against it. Here are just some of the defenses your attorney may use to help you obtain the compensation you deserve after a car crash in Florida. 

Lack of Genuine Emergency

One of the primary challenges is proving that a genuine emergency existed. If it can be demonstrated that the so-called “emergency” was not as sudden or unforeseeable as claimed, the defense loses its footing. For example, if evidence suggests the driver had a history of medical conditions or had been warned by a healthcare professional, it weakens the argument of an unexpected emergency.

Contributory Negligence

The sudden emergency defense hinges on the defendant not contributing to the emergency. If it can be shown that the defendant’s actions or decisions directly led to or exacerbated the emergency, the defense may not hold. For instance, if the driver was already driving intoxicated before they had a seizure, their negligence may have played a role in the subsequent accident.

Available Alternatives

The defense relies on the premise that there were no reasonable alternatives to the actions taken during the emergency. If evidence suggests that safer options were available but not chosen, the defense’s effectiveness diminishes. Demonstrating that a reasonable person would have taken a different course of action can undermine the sudden emergency argument.

Foreseeability of Risk

In some cases, it may be argued that the risk of a medical emergency was foreseeable, especially if the defendant knew that they had a medical condition that might impair driving. If it can be shown that the driver should have been aware of the potential for a medical event while operating a vehicle, it weakens the defense.

Inadequate Evidence

The sudden emergency defense places the burden of proof on the defendant. If they fail to provide sufficient evidence to support their claim of an emergency, it can work to your advantage. In such situations, the defense may crumble due to a lack of substantiation.

Your Attorney Can Help You Build a Strong Case 

What do you do if you’re faced with an insurance company using the sudden medical emergency defense in response to your personal injury claim? What can you do to counter this argument and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve? 

1. Consult an Experienced Attorney: The first and most crucial step is to consult an experienced Florida car accident attorney. They possess the experience and knowledge to evaluate the validity of the sudden emergency defense in your case. They can dissect the circumstances, gather evidence, and challenge the defense’s application if necessary. You can’t fight this on your own. You need to hire a car accident lawyer immediately. 

2. Gather Compelling Evidence: Evidence is your most potent weapon. Your attorney will begin by investigating your case to locate the best evidence. They’ll collect photographs, witness statements, accident reports, and any other documentation related to the incident. The more evidence you have, the stronger your case becomes.

3. Expert Testimony: Depending on the specifics of your case, your attorney may need to call an expert witness to testify. For instance, a medical expert could explain whether the medical emergency was genuinely unforeseeable or if the defendant did something to contribute to the accident. This testimony can add weight to your argument.

4. Disprove the Criteria: To challenge the sudden emergency defense, your legal team will need to cast doubt on one or more of its criteria. They’ll try to show that the emergency wasn’t as sudden as claimed or that the defendant could have taken alternative actions. Your attorney will help craft a compelling counter-narrative.

In Florida, you typically have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, waiting until the last moment can be risky. Evidence can deteriorate, witnesses may forget details, and the case might become harder to build. That’s why it is important to hire an attorney immediately after your accident. 

Your attorney can guide you on collecting evidence, assessing the viability of your claim, and taking the necessary steps to protect your rights. They can also handle negotiations with insurance companies, alleviating the stress on you during a challenging time.

Contact Our Florida Car Accident Attorneys Today

If you or someone you love was injured in a car accident, you need a law firm that isn’t afraid to fight back against large insurers. At Prosper Shaked Accident Injury Attorneys, PA, we can do just that. Our Florida car accident lawyers know how to go up against large insurance companies and win. We work tirelessly to ensure our clients get the compensation they need to rebuild their lives after a serious car crash. 

When you contact our law firm, you can rest easier knowing you have someone on your side who cares about you and your future. Let Prosper Shaked help you through this difficult time. Call us for a FREE consultation and review of your case at 305-694-2676 or fill out our confidential contact form.