A violent and bizarre crash near the University of Utah at the end of July left both drivers dead and a passenger in critical condition. It also shut down TRAX Red Line service in the area.
The crash was especially unusual because it went on for nearly two blocks; it began when a speeding SUV rear-ended a smaller car near the intersection of 500 South and 1300 East and continued as the SUV pushed the car westbound on 500 South all the way to 1100 East.
The cars separated only after hitting a TRAX pole, at which point the smaller car caught on fire. Witnesses attempted to help the victims and put out the fire but were unable to before the fire department arrived. The driver of the rear-ended vehicle died at the scene, and the driver of the SUV died at the hospital.
A Salt Lake City Police Department spokesperson said the crash would be investigated and that, despite the violent and dramatic nature and two fatalities, no malice appeared to be involved. The cause remains unknown, but there is speculation that the driver of the SUV may have had some kind of medical emergency, possibly a heart attack.
It’s easy to think that a crash caused by a medical emergency doesn’t happen every day—that it’s an exceedingly rare event.
But, in fact, they do happen nearly every day: A 2009 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that about 1.3 percent of all serious injury and fatality crashes could be attributed to a driver suffering a sudden medical affliction, most commonly a heart attack, seizure, or blackout.
That might not seem like a lot, but in 2015, 4.4 million people were seriously injured and more than 38,000 killed in crashes on US roads. Sudden medical issues could have led to more than 57,000 serious injuries and nearly 500 deaths.
In Utah, the answer to that question is a qualified “yes.” Experiencing a medical emergency while behind the wheel does not let a driver completely off the hook, but it might limit the damages a victim can claim.
Utah recognizes a “sudden emergency doctrine,” which protects a motorist if an emergency was unforeseen and unexpected. In those cases, the maximum a victim could collect would be the amount covered by the crash-causing driver’s insurance.
However, if it can be shown that a driver knew or should have known of the risk of a medical problem occurring but drove anyway, thus causing the crash, personal injury damages might be won. Every case, of course, is different.
When you’ve been the victim of a motor vehicle crash, regardless of the cause, you need the help of a firm that understands automobile accident law. To schedule a consultation, call the experienced team at Craig Swapp & Associates at 800-404-9000 or fill out the online contact form at the bottom of this page.