Previous posts here have discussed the aspects of negligence, as it is generally the most widely used cause of action in civil lawsuits in Connecticut when a person has been injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by someone else. Understanding the basics of such a claim and the elements is important, but so too is knowing the possible defenses a negligent driver might use to attempt to avoid liability.
One of these defenses is called “sudden emergency,” and it is an attempt by a person who took an action that would have otherwise been negligent, and attempt to rationalize it by showing reasonable people would have acted in the same manner due to some particular circumstances. In normal circumstances, as we have seen, a plaintiff must show that the defendant had a legal duty, that duty was breached and that the breach was both a direct and proximate cause of a plaintiff’s injuries.
However, a fact finder, usually a jury, may consider evidence that some emergency situation occurred which excuses the otherwise negligent conduct, even if the above elements are present. In such situations, the person accused of negligence must have acted as a reasonable person would have given the same circumstances faced by the supposedly negligent party. It should be noted that this, like most considerations, is an “objective” standard, and is predicated on the behavior of a hypothetical “reasonable person” rather than the specific individual involved or the individuals making the determination.
Further, the use of sudden emergency is not limited to defendants. A plaintiff may wish to use such an argument if accused of comparative negligence that would reduce or eliminate the ability to recover damages. There is some complicated case law regarding what qualifies as a “sudden emergency,” so individuals with questions about recovering for injuries suffered in a car accident may need to get more information.