A head-on collision caused by a car going the wrong way on King Avenue in Billings sent two women to the hospital recently. The car accident happened on a weekday morning when a woman in an older model Lincoln Continental drove the wrong way in the eastbound lanes of the avenue, near 20th Street West. The drivers of two other vehicles saw her coming and were able to get out of the way before the Lincoln collided with a Chevy Malibu that had come to a stop in the right lane.
News reports indicated the woman driving the wrong way had a medical condition, but did not specify what the condition was or how it may have caused the crash. Fortunately, both drivers were conscious and their injuries did not appear to be life threatening.
The civil justice system holds drivers responsible for their actions by making them liable for damages in a lawsuit if their negligence causes injury to another. Negligence is the failure to conduct oneself as a reasonable person would in the same situation. For example, drivers have a duty to pay attention to their surroundings, drive at a safe speed, and obey all signs and traffic laws.
But what if the medical condition of the woman in the Lincoln was the real cause of the accident? The law generally holds people with a disability or a medical condition to the standard of behavior of a reasonable person with that medical condition. For example, if a person failed to take a daily medication, knowing that without their medication they would be unable to drive safely, and then got behind the wheel of a car, they could be found negligent by a jury. But if the medical condition came on suddenly and without warning — as with a heart attack or stroke — the law recognizes that the person had no control over that situation and might not hold them at fault.
Source: Billings Gazette, “Women taken to hospital after wrong-way crash on King Avenue,” Sept. 21, 2012