Last week in Auburn, NY, on Lake Avenue, not too far from the New York personal injury and auto accident law firm of Michaels & Smolak, P.C., a 24-year old driver had a seizure and crashed his car into a house porch. No one, except the driver, was injured, but what if they were? What if someone was on the porch and got hurt? Could that person sue the driver for the injuries?
You might think, "gee, it wasn't really the kid's fault that he had a seizure, so how can you blame him"? You might be right. Or not.
All 50 states require drivers with a seizure history to report this in their application for a driver's license or license renewal. All 50 states deny drivers' licenses to those who suffer frequent seizures that cannot be controlled by medication. All 50 states have rules regarding when and how a license may be acquired for those with seizures that can be controlled by medication.
In New York, in order to get, or renew, a driver's license, anyone who has experienced loss of consciousness or seizures is generally required to produce, on a scheduled basis, a doctor's statement that the seizures are actively controlled by medication, unless the applicant has been seizure-free without medication for at least one year, in which case this is not required (see, 15 NYCRR 9.5).
As you can see, the law attempts to strike a balance between the interests of those unfortunate enough to suffer from seizures with the interest of the rest of us in being protected from seizure-induced accidents.
In general, seizure-related traffic accidents are unlikely when the driver has been seizure-free for a year. People who experience an "aura" before a seizure are also at reduced risk; the aura is nature's warning to pull over before the seizure begins.
Obviously, not taking antiepileptic medication, or even missing one dose, can increase the risk of a seizure-induced accident.
Getting back to this Auburn case, if the driver had obtained, or renewed, his a license without reporting past seizures, he will most likely be held liable. If he was supposed to take anti-seizure medicine, but did not, he will most likely be held liable. If he was denied a license because of seizures, but drove anyway, he will most likely be held liable.
Bottom line: If you suffer from seizures, be honest. Report them when you apply for, or renew, your driver's license. If you are on seizure-controlling meds, take them, always. If you follow these rules, but nevertheless end up killing or hurting someone after a seizure, you should be alright from a liability perspective. After all, you really do have to drive to make a living and get around in most parts of the United States. The law will be on your side as long as you are on the right side of the law!
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