Despite the fact that seizures can cause drivers to lose sudden control of their car, putting other drivers, pedestrians, and even their own passengers at risk, a recent ABC News report found that only six states require that the department of motor vehicles be notified when individuals are diagnosed with a seizure disorder. Every state has different driving laws when it comes to determining whether a person with a seizure disorder can drive. For instance, in Minnesota, doctors are not required to report to the DMV when a patient is diagnosed with epilepsy. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, a driver can get a driver’s license after 3 months of being seizure-free, with doctor’s certification. Commercial driving requirements in Minnesota are no more stringent, unless the driver intends to be driving a school bus. In Minnesota, semi-truck drivers, and other heavy load drivers could be on the road in as few as three months after they had a seizure or loss of consciousness. (To drive a school bus in Minnesota, drivers must certify that they have been seizure-free for 5 years and off medication for at least 2 years.)
While accidents involving drivers suffering from seizure disorder are rare, when these accidents take place, they can be tragic. In Colorado, a woman killed a family of five after having a seizure while driving. While doctors had warned the woman that she should not drive, doctors were not required to report her condition to the DMV. Essentially, her doctors and the law left the choice in her hands. The woman ignored the order and five people died.
While many doctors feel that they have an ethical responsibility to report to officials when patients are compromised and unable to drive, many states don’t have the processes in place to ensure that people who should not be driving are prevented from getting behind the wheel. Doctor patient confidentiality also limits what doctors can and cannot report. In most cases, the decision to keep driving or to stop driving is left up to the patient who may or may not be cognitively capable of making that decision. Laws that require doctors to report certain conditions can protect doctors, but these laws may also prevent patients from seeking care when they need it. If you suffer from an epileptic disorder and you’re wanting to keep independence and financial stability through medical expenses, then you might wish to look into life insurance policies specifically for epilepsy sufferers, like these you can find here for example.
While speeding and alcohol use are the leading factors that result in car accident deaths in the U.S., disease can also leave drivers impaired. Aging drivers with difficulty hearing or seeing are also of concern. Despite the risks of driving with certain health conditions, there are few alternatives for people who cannot drive. Individuals who cannot drive often lose their independence.
The issues are complex, but at the end of the day, people’s lives are at stake. Drivers who get behind the wheel despite doctor’s orders may put themselves and others in danger. If you’ve been in an accident, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages, if another driver got behind the wheel when they shouldn’t have been there. It can be difficult to know whether a driver has been diagnosed with epilepsy or other condition that could affect his or her ability to operate a vehicle. A car accident law firm like the Law Office of Martin T. Montilino can ask the right questions and make sure you get the justice you deserve.