Unfortunately, victims are injured in NC car accidents on a daily basis. In 2019, in NC, 285,074 car crashes were reported and 125, 232 persons were injured. Fault plays an important factor in attaining recovery for the injured victim, but what happens when the person who caused the accident had a sudden emergency? Attorney Jack Keener with The Bishop Law Firm represents car accident and personal injury victims in NC. Call us today for a free case review, (919) 615-3095.
NC Car Accident Injury Claims
In NC, if you are injured during a car accident that was not your fault you may be eligible to receive compensation for your medical bills, missed time from work, pain & suffering as well as punitive damages (in few cases). But, for the injured party to recover for their injury they must not be at fault (even 1%) for the accident (but see the Last Clear Change Doctrine). In some accident cases, fault is easy to establish due to the negligent party receiving a citation from law enforcement. In other cases, the at-fault party may not have received a citation and their insurance company will try to deny liability by claiming contributory negligence. Negligence can also be avoided if the at-fault party had a sudden emergency.
NC Car Accidents and Sudden Emergency
According to Doctrine of Sudden Emergency, Civil 102.15:
A person who, through no negligence of his own, is suddenly and unexpectedly confronted with imminent danger to himself or to others, whether actual or apparent, is not required to use the same judgment that would be required if there were more time to make a decision. The person’s duty is to use that degree of care which a reasonable and prudent person would use under the same or similar circumstances. If, in a moment of sudden emergency, a person makes a decision that a reasonable and prudent person would make under the same or similar circumstances, he does all that the law requires, even if in hindsight some different decision would have been better or safer.
Based on the above, a person who makes a bad decision while under a sudden emergency will not be held negligent if a reasonable/prudent person would have done the same in their shoes. However, the person who suffers the sudden emergency must not have contributed to the sudden emergency. One example of a sudden emergency would be when a driver causes an accident because they have a heart attack or stroke while driving especially if the driver did not have these issues prior to the accident.
However, cases in which the driver alleges a sudden emergency, are often not that clear. If the driver was aware that he/she had a history of heart problems and was told by their doctor not to drive, they would be negligent and held responsible for the accident. Unfortunately, older drivers can have a myriad of health issues that affect their ability to drive and despite being told by their doctors to stop driving, they continue to do so. In addition, if this was not the first time that they experienced health problems behind the wheel of a car, they were already on notice of the danger driving involved and may be negligent for the car accident. Obtaining the at-fault party’s driving record should be a priority.
Sudden emergencies can also occur outside of medical issues. If a driver is faced with imminent danger (for example, a car speeding towards you in your lane), the driver may have to swerve and hit other cars to get out of the way of a high speed head on collision. Also, in order to avoid hitting a pedestrian who walks into the road, a driver may have to cause a car accident to save a life.
However, the need for sudden stops are not sudden emergencies as every driver should be using reasonable care. Also, swerving to avoid hitting an animal in the road is not a sudden emergency. As you see from our examples, the Doctrine of Sudden Emergency offers protection from negligence but is also very fact specific and simply because the defense is asserted does not mean that the party will not be held negligent.
If you have been injured in a car accident due to the negligence of another and the insurance company is refusing to pay your claim based on The Doctrine of Sudden Emergency, give The Bishop Law Firm a call today for a free case review, (919) 615-3095. We represent personal injury accident victims in Raleigh, Cary, Durham, Fayetteville, Smithfield, Rocky Mount, Wilson, Chapel Hill, Roanoke Rapids, Louisburg and other areas in North Carolina. We wish you or your loved on a speedy recovery.