Sudden Emergency Defense in Car Accident Lawsuits

Car Accident Lawyers in Phoenix Explain “Emergency Defense” 

In Arizona, as in other states, the behavior of the defendant-driver in a car accident is not always unjustifiable.  Depending on the circumstances, the defendant-driver may have acted in a reasonable manner, even though their actions ultimately led to an accident (and subsequent injuries).  These situations tend to be rather uncommon, but they do happen — the sudden emergency doctrine covers one such scenario.

By developing a more complete understanding of the defenses commonly used to avoid liability in a car accident lawsuit — such as the sudden emergency defense — you can be better prepared to undermine the defendant’s argument.

Let’s take a closer look.

What is the Sudden Emergency Defense, and How Does it Work?

The sudden emergency doctrine — on which the defense is anchored — establishes that a defendant cannot be held liable for when they act reasonably (given the circumstances) in reaction to an emergency.  This can be a difficult concept to explain using general terms, so let’s explore a quick example to clarify.

Suppose that you are injured in a car accident where the defendant-driver shifted into your lane suddenly and slammed into the side of your car, causing you to collide with the median and suffer serious harm.  As it turns out, however, the defendant-driver only acted in that manner in order to avoid a massive ditch that would have sent their car falling at least ten feet or so.  The defendant was acted out of necessity due to a “sudden emergency.”  Under such circumstances, they would likely not be liable for the injuries you suffered.

Reasonable Conduct Under the Circumstances

It’s important to understand that you can overcome the defendant’s assertion that they are shielded from liability due to the sudden emergency defense.  You’ll have to show that the defendant did not act reasonably under the circumstances, however.

Though an emergency situation does give defendant’s a wider “berth” of reasonable conduct, some actions may still be unreasonable.  For example, if the defendant sees that the road is coming to a sudden end, and they have to merge, then it may be unreasonable for them to immediately merge into a crowded lane (at high speed) as opposed to slowing down or coming to a stop, first.  If the defendant acts unreasonably in an emergency situation — in other words, if a reasonable person would have acted differently — then they can be held liable for the damages caused.

Contact an Experienced Phoenix Car Accident Lawyer for a Free and Confidential Consultation

Here at Hirsch & Lyon, our team of attorneys has decades of experience litigating motor vehicle accident claims (including car accident claims) on behalf of those who have been injured due to the fault of another.

This specialized approach to litigation has given us deep insight into our practice areas and how to effectively advocate in challenging situations.  We are able to anticipate the tactics that will be employed by the defendant and undermine or otherwise circumvent the hazards altogether.  Since our founding, we have achieved substantial success in motor vehicle accident litigation, and have recovered over $100 million for our clients.

Call 602-535-1900 or submit an online case evaluation form to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Phoenix car accident attorney at Hirsch & Lyon today.

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