Generally speaking there is no exception to motor vehicle traffic safety laws for medical conditions experienced during driving unless it is a sudden and unanticipated medical emergency. In cases where you have fecal incontinence and knew about it ahead of time, the defense is never going to fly because there are things you can do to address the issue apart from speeding and jeopardizing the safety of yourself and other on the roads.
I am an insurance defense attorney and have had numerous motor vehicle cases in which the sudden and unanticipated medical emergency defense was litigated. Usually in cases where accidents and injuries happened.
In one case my client had an epileptic seizure and violently rear ended another motor vehicle resulting in a man suffering serious neck injuries. I initially asserted the sudden and unanticipated medical emergency defense. However, when I got my client’s medical records they not only showed she had stopped taking her prescribed seizure meds, because she “felt fine”, but that there had also been a long lapse in time since her doctor had been spoken to or even been consulted about her condition. I didn’t feel like I could prove the defense because the last order she got from the doctor was to continue to take the meds (and not go off them because she “felt fine.”) She had not gotten his authority to do so, plus she did have a known history of seizures.
Another case in which I couldn’t prove the defense involved a 77 year old man who violently crashed his vehicle into another car before it careened off the roadway and into a stone wall, causing the vehicle to burst into flames and leading to my client’s death. Seconds before the collision, two eyewitnesses reported that my client’s vehicle was “weaving and meandering between lanes as if it was driverless”. Heart medicine was found in his car and he was in on his way home from an appointment with the cardiologist. My theory was that he had a cardiac event which rendered him unconscious at the wheel of his vehicle. Unfortunately, however, when I took the depositions of the witnesses neither one could say that he was slumped over at the wheel or unconscious. They didn’t get a clear look and also couldn’t testify that he was steering the vehicle. I then deposed the medical examiner whose autopsy report noted significant congestive heart disease and blunt trauma from the accident while not specifically listing the cause of death as due to one or the other. I tried to get him totestify that my client would have been unconscious before impact, but unfortunately his opinion was the opposite, based on the amount of blood pumped into the man’s Peritoneal cavity. His opinion was that, without a doubt, my client’s heart was beating normally upon impact and collision for that volume of blood to be present in the peritoneal cavity. He could not testify that with reasonable medical probability a medical event had rendered my client unable to steer or operate his vehicle.
I did have one case where I proved the sudden and unanticipated medical emergency defense and got judgment in favor of my deceased client. I represented his Estate. The client was a truck driver in his early 60s whose truck crossed the center line and head on collided with multiple vehicles, causing significant personal injuries to persons in those vehicles. The client died as a result of cardiac arrest sustained during or before the accident. I deposed several eyewitnesses who testified that before my client’s truck lost control and crossed the center line, they saw him slumped unconscious at the wheel and not steering the truck. The autopsy report also indicated very significant cardiovascular disease and my client was actively treating for a heart problem. Based on the eyewitness testimony I was able to prove that a medical event rendered my client unconscious unexpectedly, although he was taking all meds he was prescribed and going to doctors and actively treating his heart disease. The Court agreed with me that he was rendered incapable of driving by virtue of a legitimate sudden and unanticipated medical emergency, which in fact also resulted in his death.
These defenses are hard to prove in Court. If the emergency isn’t sudden or unanticipated or the defendant’s own negligence created the need for the emergency, it’s not going to fly. You may also piss off a jury or Judge with the defense especially if the client comes across as an excusy or unaccountable for behavior that can be viewed as less than responsible and this in turn could blow up an award. I have seen it happen and last thing you want to happen is the insurance money isn’t enough and your assets are exposed because a jury hated your explanation.