This week we are covering highway accidents and how to look at the issue of negligence. On Monday we covered mistakes in passing on a two-lane undivided roadway; then Tuesday we wrote about heading the wrong-way on a four-lane divided interstate highway and Wednesday we discussed crossing the center line that kills the one main witness who could explain why their vehicle may have come across the center line.

This will be a short blog today. It involves a driver charged with reckless driving that led to the injury of a Wisconsin State Trooper. The accident sequence description is complicated by an alleged thyroid problem on the part of the driver who was charged with attempted murder and five charges of reckless endangerment.  Prior to striking the trooper the driver was traveling in the break down lane and weaving in and out of traffic at speeds estimated to have reached 100 m.p.h. The driver claimed and must have proven to the satisfaction of law enforcement that she had a thyroid problem interfering with her ability to know what she was doing during the events that led to the last crash with a State of Wisconsin Patrol car. The trooper, Ryan Rattunde was investigating an earlier crash and traffic was stopped.

Thyroid problems include hypothyroidism (an under-active thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) have different symptoms.

Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Weight gain
  • Feeling cold
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Constipation
  • Slowed thinking

Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism are:

  • Jitteriness, shaking, increased nervousness, irritability
  • Rapid heart beat or palpitations
  • Feeling hot
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue, feeling exhausted
  • More frequent bowel movements
  • Shorter or lighter menstrual periods

Doctor David Fitz-Patrick from the Diabetes and Hormone Center of the Pacific has a very clear description that might prove helpful to us. Looking the artist sketches on this endocrinologists website and comparing it with the photograph of the woman charged above, and the symptoms indicate to me she probably was suffering from hyperthyroidism. She’d be lethargic and have weight gain if it were hypothyroidism; but she appears thin and wide eyed in her photograph. Hyperthyroidism symptoms of jitteriness, increased nervousness, and rapid heart beat seem to go along with a sort of manic state.

In this case it helps her from avoiding more severe criminal charges but will it help her with avoiding liability for negligence? Probably not. A person has an obligation to take care of themselves medically and unless she can show this came on suddenly and without warning she’s probably still negligent and her insurance company will have to pay any award or judgment for her negligence and fault. In Iowa the relevant statute is Iowa Code Chapter 668, Liability In Tort – Comparative Fault.

Tort Law—Important Terms to Know

Negligence - The failure of a person to use such care as a reasonably prudent and careful person would use under similar circumstances.

Contributory - Bars a plaintiff with only 1 percent of fault in a negligence action from recovering anything in a tort action.

Comparative - Compares one party's fault to another party's fault in a negligence action allowing partial recovery in a tort action.

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