Tucson’s NBC affiliate, KVOA, has a story that should be of interest to more people. According to the article, Daniel Lowe was killed in an Arizona auto accident when his car was hit by Patti Salonic while Salonic was believed to be undergoing a seizure. Understandably, the mother that suffered this unspeakable loss, Penny Lowe, is speaking out about the lack of criminal charges when someone having a seizure while driving causes serious injury or death to an innocent motorist.
We would not even pretend to understand the depth of the pain that Ms. Lowe must feel, but we certainly can related to the legal issue that is presented. Just like the criminal laws in Arizona, the civil laws also side with the person who is having a seizure in many cases. As a lawyer that represents plaintiffs – people who were injured due to the neglect of others – we have had multiple cases over the years where the excuse of the accident causing driver was that they were having a seizure. Believe it or not, this is known under the law as an “Act of G-d” and thus there is no liability. Or, at least that is what the person having the seizure always claims as a defense.
Certainly, there are cases where that will be true. However, when trying to recover compensation in a personal injury or wrongful death claim, the accident-causing driver’s seizure does not answer the question: it raises more. Was this the driver’s first seizure? How often does the driver have seizures? Was the driver being followed by a doctor for seizures? If not, why not? If so, was the prescription working. If it was working, did the seizure happened because the accident-causing driver failed to take the medication, yet chose to drive anyway and put innocent people in jeopardy. If the prescriptions had not been working, how can the driver justify getting behind the wheel and putting innocent lives at risk.
I am in no position at this point to make any allegations about this particular case. I certainly do not know the facts behind this particular accident-causing defendant or the seizure history. However, where the criminal prosecutors may be willing to accept the seizure defense at face value, and experienced Phoenix personal injury lawyer will likely look into this case much a more experienced and questioning eye.
In spite of the outcome of the criminal portion of this case, we believe this family should consider retaining experienced personal injury counsel if the other driver had insurance and there is an opportunity for some type of recovery. This is obviously a personal decision that needs to be considered by the family, and we understand that nothing can undo this loss. Perhaps, however, some compensation may fund the fight to change the laws or be put to some other worthwhile use, so at least some good may come of this.