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Excuses: The Sudden Emergency Defense

Michigan lawyers handling automobile accident cases should be prepared for some very creative and unusual explanations from defendants as to how these motor vehicle accidents occur.  Sadly, far too many people believe that if they come up with an excuse, or blame the person who they hurt in the car accident, that it will be better for them.

Rarely is this the case.

Sudden Emergency Defense

The common excuse of people who cause accidents involves the “sudden emergency” defense doctrine.  In essence, the doctrine of sudden emergency says that when a defendant is confronted with such a “sudden emergency” that is “unusual or unsuspected” and the situation is not of his or her own making, and that the defendant is using ordinary care yet is not able to avoid the  collision that he sees and comprehends unfolding before him, his negligence can be excused.

What Must Defendants Show To Prove Sudden Emergency

The defendant must show that the sudden emergency was in view for a short length of time and the peril was totally unexpected. The sudden emergency defense must be raised by a defense lawyer as an affirmative defense to give notice before trial to the other side.

This doctrine has been raised by both honest and less than honest defendants involving everything from oil slicks, to sudden blinding sun, to sudden winter storm warnings, brake failure, child dart out, stalled cars, avoiding a prior accident and deer.

The plaintiff attorney handling automobile accident cases must focus on whether this sudden emergency was truly “not of his own making.”  Most defenses involving the sudden emergency doctrine can then be defeated by showing that the defendant did not use ordinary care in the moments that lead up to the defendant being confronted by a sudden emergency.