How Some Defendants May Attempt to Use the “Sudden Emergency Doctrine” to Evade Liability

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing what the court called the “sudden emergency doctrine,” explaining how it may be applied to excuse what may otherwise be considered negligent behavior. The case is important to Indiana car accident victims because the doctrine is also applied by Indiana courts.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving in a line of cars, all of which were entering the highway. As one of the cars was proceeding up the on-ramp, another motorist pulled around the side of her vehicle, passed her at a high speed, and made an obscene gesture in her direction. The passing motorist then slammed on her brakes, causing the motorist to also suddenly brake.

The plaintiff was traveling immediately behind the motorist who had just been passed. When that motorist applied the brakes, so did the plaintiff. The plaintiff stopped in time to avoid a collision. However, the defendant truck driver was immediately behind the plaintiff and, as the cars in front of him quickly slowed down, the defendant also applied the brakes.

The defendant, however, was unable to stop in time and crashed into the back of the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff later filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, claiming that he was negligent in failing to stop in time to avoid the collision. The defendant argued he did not act negligently and filed a motion for summary judgment.

The Court’s Discussion

The court’s ultimate task in this case was to determine if the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to present the case to a jury. The court held that she did not, based on the “sudden emergency doctrine.”

The court held, as a matter of law, that the defendant’s conduct in responding to a sudden emergency that he did not cause was reasonable, given the circumstances. The court explained that drivers cannot be expected to foresee that a driver will dangerously pass another motorist on the on-ramp to the highway and then slam on their brakes. Thus, the court excused the defendant’s conduct.

The Sudden Emergency Doctrine in Indiana

As in the case above, Indiana court have applied the sudden emergency doctrine in limited situations. Indiana courts consider the doctrine more of a specific application of the general requirement that “one’s conduct conform to the standard of a reasonable person.”

Thus, in order to benefit from the doctrine, a defendant must establish that 1.) they did not cause or contribute to the accident, 2.) the danger confronting the defendant was so immediate that it left no time to consider the options, and 3.) the defendant’s apprehension of the danger was reasonable. If a defendant is unable to establish proof of each of these elements, they will be unable to avail themselves to the defense.

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Indiana personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience assisting the victims of Indiana car accidents seek and obtain the compensation they deserve. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation.

Related Posts:

Jury Must Determine if Plaintiff’s Delay in Notifying Insurance Company of Accident was Excused, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, July 5, 2018

Indiana Court Determines Wires Running Across Hospital Room Floor Were Not an Obvious Hazard, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, July 18, 2018

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