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Drivers with Epilepsy Face Increased Accident Risks

Road safety is always a concern when you suffer from a chronic medical condition. Results have been released from a recent study focused on obtaining a better understanding of the accident risks facing patients with epilepsy.

According to statistics, between 2.5 to 3 million people in the United States currently suffer from epilepsy. Not all types of epilepsy are the same. There are variations in the number of seizures, the frequency of seizures, and the area of the brain from where these attacks emanate. The study focused on understanding how to better protect people with epilepsy, and keep them safe while driving. The researchers found that persons who suffered from longer seizures were more likely to be involved in an accident.

Approximately 70% of people who currently suffer from epilepsy are allowed to drive, provided that they control their seizures using medication. The remaining 25% of patients typically record the frequency and duration of their seizures, and discuss it with their doctors as part of a an ongoing monitoring of their condition.

In the study, researchers put 16 epilepsy patients through a driving simulator. They found that in all, there were 20 epileptic seizures that occurred, and seven of these resulted in accidents. The longer the duration of the seizure, the higher the individual’s chances of being involved in an accident on the simulator. Among the patients involved in an accident, seizures lasted for an average of 75 seconds, while among those who did not crash, seizures lasted for approximately 30 seconds.

According to researchers, they were specifically looking at whether certain types of seizures increased car accident risks, compared to others. For instance, seizures emanating from a specific part of the brain, or those resulting in particular brainwave patterns could possibly be tied to a higher risk of accidents. The researchers were looking at identifying these patterns. Our Atlanta personal injury lawyers agree that much more research into this is expected in the future.

In Georgia, a motorist who suffers from epilepsy may get a license to drive vehicles weighing less than 20,000 pounds, provided he or she has not suffered a seizure within the last six months. A motorist whose seizures occur only at night may be eligible only for a daytime driving license, even if he or she has not suffered a seizure in the last six months. Motorists however may be required to provide periodic medical reports before they get their licenses renewed.

Persons who suffer from epilepsy and have permission to drive must ensure that they adhere to the treatment schedule prescribed by their doctor.

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  • Litster

    I’m curious as to how a driver with a known history of seizures and causes a car accident that harms others will be able to win a lawsuit for personal injuries. I understand that controlling the seizures with medications is a possibility, but how well does it work? Would a driver who controls his or her seizures with medications be able to show they were not negligent if they still had a seizure and caused a car accident?

    • Robert N. Katz, Esq.

      Great questions. A person with a history of seizures will not be automatically relieved of liability for an accident caused the by a seizure. The issue is whether it was foreseeable to the driver that he may have a seizure and he still drove the vehicle. For instance, if the driver failed to regularly take his anti-seizure medication or he had observed the medication was not regularly working for him, then he would still be considered negligent even though the seizure at the moment of the auto accident was not expected. I have handled several cases involving seizures and have been successful in obtaining a recovery for my clients. Each case is different and depends on the facts and circumstances of the particular case. We are often able to establish the driver’s history through his medical records before and after the collision.