Did You Recently Break a Bone? Read This Before Getting Behind the Wheel

The New York Times recently had a fascinating article relating to when it was safe to resume driving a motor vehicle after sustaining either an injury, undergoing surgery or recovering from an illness.

The article quoted numerous studies and surveys and concluded, in part that people who are still in the recovery stage after a sprain, fracture or any other type of injury/illness should avoid driving because their ability to steer, look in their mirrors and brake can be impaired.

Most medical experts agree on the following recovery lengths:

  • For a knee arthroscopy, four weeks
  • For an ankle fracture, six weeks
  • For a fracture of a major lower-body bone, six weeks
  • For a right hip or knee replacement, four to six weeks

While experts may disagree as to exact recovery times for different types of injuries, virtually everyone agrees that it is unsafe to drive with a cast or brace on the right leg, or with a sling/cast on either arm.

Going deeper than just the obvious impairments, medical doctors featured in a recent study also explained that injuries and serious illnesses can cause patients to lose sleep. Lack of sleep can weaken a driver’s alertness and also be a serious impairment to safe driving.

Legally speaking, when a plaintiff is involved in a car accident, his/her medical information both post accident and pre-accident is most certainly relevant and to a large extent, discoverable by a defendant. The question that presents in this study is the plaintiff’s rights to discover the pre-accident medical history of the defendant driver. Normally, that history would not be discoverable except if that past medical history had a potential effect on the defendant’s ability to operate a car in a “reasonable”, non-negligent manner.

The types of questions a plaintiff’s attorney could inquire of at a deposition and in formal discovery demands would be prior medical history such as blackouts, seizures, epileptic episodes, poor vision and medications being taken at the time of accident. If any of the above ailments were suffered by the defendant, a plaintiff would be entitled to a review of a defendant’s medical records to ascertain if the medical issues had an impact on the ability of the defendant driver.

A competent defense attorney will certainly not give the records or even an authorization to obtain a defendant’s medical records without a court order. However, a cogent argument to the presiding judge as to the right to obtain and relevancy of the medical records should be vigorously pursed by an injured plaintiff’s attorney.