What is a “sudden emergency” defense?

We were just reading a case result in which a defendant claimed a “sudden emergency defense” — that the driver was avoiding another car — when he hit a pedestrian. We thought we’d take the opportunity to look at this case and discuss what a “sudden emergency defense” is.

The Case in Question
Citation: Dacosta v. Drummond, No. 10835/10 (N.Y., Kings Co. Sup. May 10, 2012).

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Before we tell you how the case settled, let’s look at the sudden emergency defense.

Sudden Emergency Defense

The law recognizes that emergencies do arise. A sudden emergency is one in which a driver has to cope with an emergency that is not in the driver’s making, is sudden and requires an immediate response. Examples of sudden emergencies include:

  • A deer running in front of a person’s vehicle.
  • The car in the oncoming lane crossing the centerline.
  • The driver in front of you losing control on an icy road and spinning out.
  • A lost load on the highway.

These are examples of sudden emergencies in which an driver must make an immediate response.

A “sudden emergency defense” is one in which a driver claims that he/she was not acting in a negligent manner and was responding in a reasonable manner to an emergency.

Sudden Medical Emergency Defense

In some cases, a defendant will claim a “sudden medical emergency” or “sudden incapacity” which rendered the person incapacitated and unable to control a his/her motor vehicle resulting in a motor vehicle accident.

With this defense, the defendant has to prove that his/her medical condition was not “forseeable”. For example, if a person had a heart attack while driving but had no symptoms of an impending heart attack and no history of heart disease, the heart attack may not have been “foreseeable.” Alternatively, if a diabetic was involved in a motor vehicle accident caused by a sudden emergency due to uncontrolled diabetes, the court might rule that since the diabetes was a known condition that the emergency was “forseeable.”

Jury Decision

In the case of Dacosta v. Drummond,the jury rejected the sudden emergency defense and found the defendant liable.

How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

If you have been injured in a car accident and the other driver is claiming a “sudden emergency,” an experienced personal injury attorney can help by subpoenaing the other driver’s medical records, interviewing witnesses and gathering all the of the facts of the case.

This information is provided by Washington Injury Attorney blog, a service of The Farber Law Group. We represent people who have been seriously injured in motor vehicle accidents due the negligence of another driver. With our help, you may recover compensation for your damages.

Contact The Farber Law Group at 1-800-244-9087 or attorney@hgfarber.com to schedule a free and confidential case evaluation. Our Bellevue office is here to assist you.