Lawyers for Nicole Linton, a nurse who officials say caused a horrific crash the afternoon of Aug. 4 that killed five people and an unborn child, suffered a “mental collapse.” According to court documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the nurse had a four-year struggle with bipolar disorder, and doctors had determined soon after the deadly collision that Linton had suffered an “apparent lapse of consciousness” at the time of the crash.
According to officials, Linton was traveling at speeds of 130 mph when she blew through a red light and slammed into passing traffic. The fiery collision took the lives of five people, including a pregnant woman and her unborn child.
The Los Angeles district attorney has charged Linton with six counts of murder, including the unborn child. The crash caused the deaths of 23-year-old Asherey Ryan; her nearly 1-year-old child, Alonzo Quintero; her boyfriend, Reynold Lester; and their unborn child. Ryan was 8½ months pregnant when she was killed. Also killed were friends Nathesia Lewis, 43, and Lynette Noble, 38.
‘Deteriorating Mental Health Issues
Documents from the LA Times say prosecutors labeled Linton a “flight risk” and that she was suffering from deteriorating mental health issues before the crash. A doctor who examined Linton wrote that she had no recollection of the events that led to the crash.
“The next thing she recalled was lying on the pavement and seeing that her car was on fire,” he added that she has bipolar disorder and suffered an “apparent lapse of consciousness” at the time of the crash.
Linton reportedly studied to be a nurse anesthetist, and family members said that the stress of pursuing her studies caused her mental health breakdown. Her attorneys detailed several incidents that indicate mental health crisis situations, including one in May 2018 when Linton ran out of her apartment during a panic attack and jumped on a police car when approached by law enforcement officials. That incident resulted in her arrest for disorderly conduct.
Records also show she was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward after a neighbor of Linton’s family found that she was running around her apartment complex naked. Her condition worsened when she stopped taking her psychiatric medication during the pandemic. Her attorneys said Linton’s behavior in the days leading up to the Aug. 4 crash grew increasingly frightening. However, she continued working at the Los Angeles Medical Center.
When Mental Health Issues cause a Car Accident
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a car crash where the at-fault driver’s mental health was a factor, it may be challenging to prove negligence and seek compensation for your damages and losses. Under the law, drivers are expected to be alert and in good mental condition when driving.
While proving that the other driver’s mental health was impaired can be challenging, it’s not impossible. An experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney will be able to interpret the law and secure the evidence needed for your claim to be successful.
It is important to note that those with severe mental health issues should not be driving, just as a driver whose judgment is impaired by alcohol or drug use shouldn’t get behind the wheel. The same could be said of a driver with severe health conditions who could suffer a medical episode while driving.
Those suffering from mental health issues are likely to make several dangerous moves and decisions while driving, such as speeding or driving at an unsafe speed, making sudden lane changes, braking suddenly without cause, driving erratically, or engaging in dangerous maneuvers.
Drivers with mental health issues may also not have road awareness or the reaction time needed to be safe and avoid accidents. In addition, drivers experiencing mental health issues may engage in additional dangerous behaviors such as drinking or texting while driving.
One of the potential mental health issues that could be dangerous on the road is bipolar disorder. This mental health condition causes extreme mood swings and includes emotional highs and lows. A recent study published in the International Journal of Bipolar Disorders found that people with bipolar disorder had longer response times than those with bipolar disorder.
Researchers measured the reaction times of 33 people with bipolar disorder in remission against 33 people without it. They found delays in reaction times in participants’ results on a neuropsychological test and psychometric test designed for drivers, which measure people’s ability to process information and make timely decisions.
Who is Responsible for the Driver?
In situations where the mental illness is serious and requires another person to be a legal guardian, that person would assume liability for the protected party’s actions – just as a parent might be held liable for the actions of a minor. When the driver in question is an adult, he or she may be held liable for his or her own actions.
However, if the mentally ill individual has no control over their finances or assets because of their condition, the injured party could seek compensation from the legal guardian or conservator.