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SUV Plummets Fifty Feet from Atlanta Overpass When Driver Suffers Medical Emergency

April 05, 2013

A scary crash involving an SUV that slammed through a guardrail and fell fifty feet from an overpass apparently was caused by a medical emergency involving the driver of the SUV. While the news report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution indicated that the vehicle occupants suffered only minor injuries, this type of road departure collision off an overpass or embankment typically results in far more extensive injuries.

Because the preliminary reports from the Atlanta police indicate that the driver suffered a medical emergency, this accident raises an interesting issue about the rights of the passengers to recover against the driver if they had suffered serious injury.

As a general matter, passengers in vehicles operated by a negligent driver may be eligible to recover damages if the passengers suffer injury in a collision caused by the driver’s lack of care. However, the driver must have engaged in driving that constitutes a failure to exercise reasonable care to prevent foreseeable injury to passengers in the vehicle or others with whom the driver shares the road. When a driver causes a collision because he is incapacitated by a medical emergency, this may mitigate his culpability so that he is not negligent. This is only true if the driver did not have reason to anticipate the potential medical emergency.

The driver may know that he has a medical condition or that he is under a doctor’s care, which might result in an incapacitating medical emergency. An obvious example would be a driver who has a history of seizures or diabetic blackouts. The key issue in such a case might be whether the past pattern of health issues should have made it foreseeable that such a medical emergency might occur while the driver was operating a motor vehicle. This determination may be made by reviewing medical records, obtaining expert testimony from medical experts and similar forms of evidence.

Even if the driver is involved in a single car road departure accident that is the result of a sudden unforeseeable medical emergency, this does not necessarily mean that there are no options for financial recovery by injured passengers. The manufacturer of the vehicle may be liable if a product defect associated with the vehicle played a role in the collision. Public entities responsible for highway safety may also be financially responsible if a dangerous road contributed to the collision. As an example, the speed limit may be too high, curves insufficiently marked or guardrails absent.

When medical incapacity results in a road departure accident, the risk of injury to passengers is far greater. These accidents may involve vehicle rollovers that result in vehicle ejections or roof crush injuries. Obviously, the force generated when a vehicle falls from an elevation like an overpass or drop-off can cause potentially devastating injuries like spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injuries, paralysis, loss of limbs and other forms of serious injury and wrongful death.

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The firm was recently honored by the Georgia House of Representatives for its 30 years of service, with the passing of House Resolution 394, recognizing Montlick & Associates for "the outstanding accomplishments of this distinguished firm," and “for providing efficient, effective and dedicated services to the citizens of Georgia.” The firm was also named the Most Patriotic Business of 2011 by the Association of the United States Army in Atlanta for its efforts to support the troops, and its CEO David R. Montlick received a Patriotism Award in 2012 for the Southeast. To learn more about the firm’s award-winning public service programs, please visit

The experienced Georgia car accident attorneys at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to clients throughout Georgia, including rural areas in the state and across the Southeast. No matter where you are located, the attorneys at Montlick & Associates are just a phone call away, and will even come to you. Call 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit online at and use the firm’s Free 24-hour Live Online Chat or Free Case Evaluation Form.

Category: Auto Accidents

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.