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The ‘Sudden Emergency Doctrine’ Explained

old man holding chest in car

Car accidents are typically the result of negligence on the part of one or more drivers. There are, however, specific circumstances where even the driver who initiated the collision may not be found at fault. This can be due to something known as the “sudden emergency doctrine.”

What is the Sudden Emergency Doctrine?

The sudden emergency doctrine is a legal principle that can be used to defend someone involved in an accident, even if they were technically at fault. The basis for the defense is that the driver facing the emergency situation could not have reasonably avoided the accident, even if they had been driving perfectly up to that point. Examples include:

  • A sudden medical condition (i.e. heart attack, stroke, etc).
  • Unforeseen weather conditions
  • Airborne vehicle/road debris

How to Prove a Sudden Emergency

If a driver finds themselves in a situation where they need to use the sudden emergency doctrine as their defense, there are certain elements that they will need to prove to be successful. These include:

  • A sudden emergency or unexpected/unanticipated event occurred.
  • The driver did not cause this emergency or event.
  • The driver acted within reason in response to the emergency or event.

When the Sudden Emergency Doctrine Does Not Apply

In certain circumstances, the sudden emergency doctrine will not be a valid defense. For example, if the driver had time to react to the emergency or event but failed to do so in a reasonable manner or if they created the crisis or event through their own negligence.

Say, for instance, a driver is speeding and suddenly comes across a stopped car in their lane. They may not be able to use the sudden emergency doctrine as a defense if they collide with the stopped vehicle. This is because they had time to react to the situation (i.e. slow down or move into another lane) but failed to do so in a reasonable manner.

Similarly, if a driver suffered a heart attack or other medical emergency but had a known medical history and was advised against driving, they may not be able to defend themselves using the sudden emergency doctrine.

Car Accident Attorneys in Fort Lauderdale, FL

At Schlesinger Law Offices, P.A., we pride ourselves on providing our clients with high-quality and world-class legal representation. When you become injured due to the recklessness and wrongdoing of someone else, you deserve to be compensated. While everyone deserves justice, they still have to fight for it. Let us help you win that battle.

If you were injured in a car accident in Ft. Lauderdale, call Schlesinger Law Offices, P.A. today at (954) 467-8800 or fill out our form online.

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