Court Rejects the Emergency Doctrine Defense in a Car Accident Case in New York

While most car accidents in New York are caused by negligent driving, some are brought about by sudden, unavoidable obstacles. Thus, New York recognizes the emergency doctrine, which can operate to remove liability for drivers who encounter sudden unexpected conditions and subsequently cause collisions during their attempts to avoid a dangerous situation. The application of the emergency doctrine does not automatically mean a driver cannot be held accountable for injuries suffered in an accident, however, as demonstrated in a recent New York opinion. If you were hurt in a crash caused by another driver, you have the right to pursue damages, and you should speak to a seasoned Buffalo car accident attorney about your possible claims.

The Plaintiff’s Accident and Subsequent Claims

It is reported that the plaintiff was riding a motorcycle when the defendant, who was driving the vehicle in front of him, stopped suddenly after a dog ran into the road. The plaintiff rear-ended the defendant and suffered injuries in the collision. He then filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that her negligence caused the accident and his subsequent harm. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that pursuant to the emergency doctrine, she was not negligent. The court denied the defendant’s motion, and she appealed. On appeal, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

The Emergency Doctrine

Under New York law, drivers that stop suddenly must do so with due regard to other drivers and the exercise of reasonable care. Drivers must also signal appropriately to anyone traveling behind them before stopping abruptly. The appellate court noted that while the defendant submitted evidence that supported the assertion that she was not negligent, the plaintiff raised a factual dispute by submitting an expert affidavit stating that the best practice for a driver who encounters an animal in the road is to avoid stopping.

Further, the court was not persuaded by the defendant’s argument that she was not liable under the emergency doctrine. The court explained that the doctrine dictates that drivers faced with sudden unexpected situations which leave little time for deliberation before choosing a course of action will not be deemed negligent if the acts they take are prudent and reasonable in the context of an emergency. The court found that due to the disagreement over the reasonableness of the defendant’s actions, summary judgment was inappropriate. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in Buffalo

Drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles reasonably in consideration of the circumstances, and if they do not, they can be held accountable for the harm caused by their negligence. If you were injured in a rear-end crash caused by a reckless driver, you should meet with a lawyer to determine your rights. The experienced Buffalo car accident attorneys of the Dietrich Law Firm P.C. are adept at helping injured people in the pursuit of damages, and if you hire us, we will zealously pursue the best outcome available in your case. You can reach us to schedule a conference at 716-839-3939 or through our form online.

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