As a driver in the state of Florida, you’re well aware of the many challenges that face you every time you get behind the wheel. From reckless drivers to poorly maintained roadways to inclement weather, you never know what you’ll be up against. In some cases, a Florida car accident is caused by a sudden emergency, which leaves you wondering who is at fault and who will cover your damages? Our car accident attorneys in West Palm Beach explain how liability works in a Florida car accident caused by a sudden emergency and what steps you should take.
What is the Florida sudden emergency doctrine?
There’s no way to avoid emergencies. These can happen at any time, including on the state’s roadways. For this reason, there’s a sudden emergency doctrine to protect people who are confronted with unexpected danger. With this, the person who caused the accident is not held to the same standard as others.
Of course, there’s plenty of gray area in regards to when a sudden emergency can be used as a defense strategy. Here’s when a defendant can consider this type of defense:
- There was a verifiable emergency
- The defendant did not create the emergency
- The defendant was presented with multiple courses of action
- A reasonable driver in a similar situation would have taken the same approach
Here are some of the many things that could be classified as a sudden emergency:
- Medical emergency: For example, a driver may have taken their eyes off the road to tend to a passenger with a medical emergency. But by taking this action, they caused an accident.
- Weather: Florida’s weather can change without notice. One second you’re driving on dry pavement, but the next you’re contending with driving rain and strong winds. This can result in an emergency situation.
- Road obstructions: Imagine driving down the highway when all of a sudden you see a tire, animal, or another object on the road. You only have a split second to decide what to do.
What elements must be proven in a “sudden medical emergency” defense?
If a defendant is to use the sudden medical emergency defense, they must be able to prove the following:
- The driver suddenly lost consciousness before the accident occurred
- The loss of consciousness caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle, and
- The loss of consciousness was caused by an unforeseeable medical emergency.
If you were injured by someone using the sudden medical emergency defense, the burden of proof is on them.
What factors impact ‘foreseeability’?
The word ‘foreseeability’ often comes into play in a Florida motor vehicle accident caused by a sudden emergency.
For example, if the driver experienced symptoms of a serious medical concern before the crash, it may have been foreseeable that an emergency could occur while driving. The same holds true for a person with knowledge of a medical condition, such as a history of seizures.
When foreseeability comes into play, the sudden emergency doctrine may not apply to the accident.
How to disprove a sudden emergency defense?
The ability to disprove this defense strategy will better position you to obtain compensation for your injuries and related damages. Here are some of the ways to disprove a sudden emergency defense:
- The defendant driver’s medical records may show a pre-existing condition.
- A blood test taken after the accident can show if the defendant took their medication as suggested by their medical team.
- The testimony of people who know the defendant, such as those who can speak to past medical emergencies.
Who pays if a car accident is caused by a sudden emergency?
Just because a defendant uses the sudden emergency defense strategy doesn’t mean they’ll be successful in doing so. As noted above, they’re required to prove that they were faced with an emergency that was unforeseeable. If the at-fault driver’s claim is proven to be true, they’re not liable for your injuries and damages to your vehicle.
However, that does not mean you are out of luck. You can then seek compensation by filing a claim with your own insurance company. As you can see, a sudden emergency has the potential to complicate an insurance claim and personal injury case.
If the person who caused the accident is using the sudden emergency defense, it’ll add another layer of challenges to your case. And for that reason, you’ll want to search for an experienced car accident attorney who can provide you with professional guidance and legal advice.
Injured in an accident caused by a sudden emergency? Contact Fetterman & Associates, P.A.
The West Palm Beach car accident lawyers at Fetterman & Associates, P.A. have decades of experience negotiating with insurance companies in various types of car accident claims, including those involving a sudden emergency. If you or a loved one was injured in a Florida motor vehicle accident, contact us online or via phone at 561-845-2510 to take the next steps towards pursuing compensation. Schedule a free consultation today.