Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

What Constitutes A Sudden Emergency?

It happens, you are driving down the street and suddenly a dog, or child darts out in front of your vehicle, you slam on the brakes, or swerve, and BAM, you’ve hit something or worse someone.  Or you were able to stop in time, but the car behind didn’t, and BAM, hit from behind.  Or the car in front of you suddenly stopped and you struck it. Whether or not you were at fault in any of the above scenarios may depend on whether or not your conduct qualifies under the Sudden Emergency Doctrine.

Nevada Insurance Lawyers Mills & Associates 702-240-6060 In brief, the doctrine provides that a person confronted with a “sudden emergency” which he didn’t cause and who acts with his best judgment is not guilty of negligence, even if his decision wasn’t the best one, provided he acted like a reasonably prudent person would act when confronted with the same situation.

While this may sound like the perfect defense to almost any traffic accident, it’s not quite that simple.   In the recent opinion of Posas v. Horton. 126 Nev. Adv. Op. 12 (2010), the Nevada Supreme Court made it clear that the “sudden emergency doctrine” is available in Nevada.  However the court also put strict limits on the use of that doctrine.  It explained that the “sudden emergency defense” is only available to the person who was initially confronted with the emergency.  So if you slam on the brakes, because a dog or child darts out in front of you, you were the one confronted by the sudden emergency, (provided that you were not driving negligently prior to the accident (i.e. speeding)).  On the other hand, if the car in front of you slams on its brakes because a child or dog dashed out in front of it, and you hit the ahead car because you didn’t allow yourself enough time to stop, the defense is not available.   Also the emergency itself must be something other than the type of traffic situation which is considered a routine risk of driving.

Mills & Associates Insurance Lawyers 702-240-6060

About Michael Mills

Mr. Mills practices in the area of civil litigation and appeals, with particular experience in matters involving trucking liability, insurance defense, insurance coverage, premises liability, products liability and defense of personal injury. Mr. Mills is a member of the Trucking Insurance Defense Association, the Defense Research Institute Trucking Committee and the Nevada Motor Transport Association. Mr. Mills is licensed to practice before the Nevada Supreme Court and the Utah Supreme Court. He is also licensed to appear before the United States Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts for the Districts of Nevada and Utah, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Mr. Mills has created 3 Blogs for the benefit of the insurance industry. He serves as editor and publisher of the Nevada Insurance Law Blog, the Nevada Coverage and Bad Faith Blog and the Nevada Trucking Law Blog.

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