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Legal Requirements for Driving After a Brain Injury in Alabama

June 4, 2024 Personal Injury

People who have suffered a serious medical condition have questions about legal requirements when returning to driving on Alabama roadways.  In this blog post, we will cover the legal requirements relevant to returning to driving after a brain injury in Alabama.

Regulations About Driving After a Brain Injury in Alabama

Alabama has regulations that govern how someone can return to driving after suffering a stroke or brain injury. These Alabama driving regulations set forth responsibilities of the person wanting to drive again.

A subpart of these regulations states:

Whenever the department learns that a person applying for, renewing, or holding an operator’s license has a progressive, recurring or debilitating medical condition which may affect safe driving, the department may require the person to provide the department with medical information about the person’s medical condition.

Note that the regulation states  “whenever the department learns…”. This means a review by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) is only done when they are notified that a person has developed a serious medical condition.

According to UAB’s Article About Driving After a Brain Injury there is no reporting requirement for healthcare providers about patients sustaining brain injuries or other neurological conditions. However, physicians may feel obligated to report the neurological condition if they suspect the patient is driving and shouldn’t be due to their medical condition.   In addition, family members of the patient may feel compelled to report the condition to ensure safety.

Subsection .07 and .10 of these regulations are applicable for those who have specifically suffered neurological conditions such as a stroke or brain injury. If the person is applying for renewal of a driver’s license and it is being reviewed by ALEA, then ALEA will consider several factors. The most prominent factors include:

  • Any “motor deficits” that impair safe driving;
  • Whether there is “impaired reasoning” or judgment;
  • Whether diastolic blood pressure is 120 or less within 90 days of application;
  • Whether the person has had any episodes of “altered consciousness” within the prior 6 months;
  • The side effects of any medications taken by the driver.

ALEA can consider the patient’s medical history, including medical records, in making its determination.

Can a Stroke or Brain Injury Driver Be Held Responsible for a Car Accident?

If the person causes a car accident as a result of their neurological condition after knowing about the condition, then yes, they can be held liable.  Alabama law has an affirmative defense for “sudden and unforeseeable loss of consciousness.”  For example, if a healthy person without any history of stroke suddenly has a stroke while driving, crosses the center line and kills someone, that person cannot be held liable because the wreck was caused by a sudden and unforeseeable loss of consciousness.

However, a prior stroke victim could foreseeably have a sudden loss of consciousness due to their medical history, which means they could be held liable.  A foreseeable loss of consciousness does not prevent you from having liability.

If a claim is made against the driver, that person’s car insurance should cover any claims. However, a word of caution: most car insurance companies have in their applications a question or two about whether you have any medical conditions affecting your ability to safely operative vehicles.  If you lie in your application, your car insurance company could refuse to cover anything due to fraudulent misrepresentation in your insurance application.

Therefore, it is the best policy to always be honest in any paperwork when applying for any type of insurance.

Can You Get Car Insurance if You’ve Had a Stroke or Brain Injury in Alabama?

Car insurance companies cannot deny you insurance solely for a medical condition so long as:

  1. The medical condition is controlled with medication or treatment; and
  2. A physician has certified that you are capable of safely operating a vehicle.

When applying for car insurance, stroke victims should be evaluated by a physician who can certify that the following is true pursuant to Reg. 760-X-20-.07 (3)(b), which is reprinted below:

(b) Medical standards for operator licenses. A person who applies for, renews, or holds an operator’s license shall meet all of the following cerebrovascular function criteria:

  1. There is no motor deficit preventing safe driving.
  2. There is no impairment of reasoning or judgment preventing safe operation of a vehicle, as assessed by a physician.
  3. The person’s diastolic blood pressure is less than 120 millimeters of mercury, with or without medication, based on a reading within 90 days preceding application.
  4. There are no medications interfering with the person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.

The safety play for those who have a history of traumatic brain injury, seizures, or Parkinson’s, is to have them evaluated by a physician who can certify that the following is true pursuant to subsection .10, which is reprinted below:

(b) Medical standards for operator licenses. A person who applies for, renews, or holds for an operator’s license shall meet all of the following neuromuscular function criteria:

  1. There has been no episode of altered consciousness or loss of bodily control caused by a neurological condition within the 6 months preceding application.
  2. The person adequately compensates for any paralysis or sensory deficit when operating a vehicle.
  3. Fatigue, weakness, muscle spasm or tremor at rest does not impair safe driving, as assessed by a physician or determined through a driving evaluation.
  4. There are no effects or side effects of medication that interferes with safe driving.
  5. There is no decline in cognition

If you have this certification in writing from a physician, you should be approved for car insurance and you should be able to have your driver’s license renewed.

We hope this blog article was helpful to you.  At Siniard Law, we represent numerous brain injury victims.  If we can ever be of assistance in any type of TBI accident case, please reach out today.

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