What is sudden emergency?
Sudden emergency is a defense that a defendant can use to escape liability. When the defendant invokes this defense, she must prove four elements:
- The defendant faced a situation that arose unexpectedly and suddenly.
- The defendant was not at fault for the situation.
- A reasonable person would have concluded that the situation was serious and that the situation required the defendant to act without taking time to deliberate.
- The action that the defendant took was the same action that a reasonable person would have taken.
Examples of a Sudden Emergency:
Mike is driving down the highway when he suddenly suffers a heart attack. Mike has never had any heart problems before he suffered this heart attack.
He loses control of his truck and crashes into Lisa’s car. Mike will likely be able to claim the sudden emergency defense.The situation that Mike faced arose unexpectedly and suddenly because Mike has never had any heart problems before the car accident.
In other words, Mike had no reason to know that he was at risk of a heart attack. Mike was not at fault for the situation because he did not know that he was at risk for a heart attack.
A reasonable person would have concluded that a heart attack is a serious situation and that Mike did not have time to deliberate.
Finally, a reasonable person would have acted as Mike did when he suffered the heart attack.
Shelby is a driver for ABC trucking. Shelby has never had any health problems.One day while she is driving the truck, she suffers a seizure.
As a result, her truck veers into oncoming traffic and George is injured.
Shelby will be able to assert the sudden emergency defense because the situation that she faced was unexpected, she was not at fault for the situation, she did not have time to deliberate, and the action she took was reasonable.
The situation would be different if Shelby knew that she suffered from a seizure problem and refused to take her medicine because Shelby would be negligent.
Her negligence would prevent her from claiming that there was a sudden emergency.
Example where the Sudden Emergency Defense Would Fail:
Tim had a bad day at work. When he got home, he decided to drink his problems away. His wife Reba is pregnant.
After Time drinks six bottles of wine Reba goes into labor. Tim attempts to drive his Reba to the ER. Time drives as fast as he can in order to get to the hospital.
On the way there, he loses control of his car because he was intoxicated. Tim rear-ends Jack. Tim will not be able claim the defense of sudden emergency. The situation may have been unexpected, but Tim lost control of the car due to his negligence.
If he had not been drinking, he would not have lost control of the car. Thus, Tim was at fault for the situation.