Sudden Emergency Doctrine As Applicable to Car Accidents 

An average of 6 million car accidents occur in the United States every year. Car accidents are often sudden events, and no one can anticipate when, where, or how a car accident will occur. As a motorcycle accident lawyer can tell us, motorcycle and car accidents affect everyone differently. And most people are forced to make split second decisions when involved in a car accident.

The sudden emergency doctrine protects a person who is placed in a sudden emergency while operating a vehicle, through no fault of his or her own. The person must act as a reasonable and ordinary person would if placed in the same or similar emergency in order for the sudden emergency doctrine to protect their actions.

Sudden Emergency Doctrine in Nevada

Nevada has adopted the use of the Sudden Emergency Doctrine. In Posas v. Horton, the Nevada Supreme Court defined when the Sudden Emergency Doctrine should be applied in personal injury cases. Posas was forced to suddenly stop her vehicle when a woman pushing a stroller began to cross the street in the middle of traffic and directly in front of Posas’s vehicle. Posas v. Horton, 126 Nev. 112, 228 P.3d 457 (2010). Horton was driving directly behind Posas and rear-ended Posas’s vehicle after Posas suddenly stopped to avoid hitting the pedestrian. Horton admitted that she was following too close immediately prior to the collision. Posas brought suit against Horton. Despite Posas’s objection at trial, the jury was given the following sudden-emergency instruction:

A person confronted with a sudden emergency, which he does not create, who acts according to his best judgment, or before insufficient time to form a judgment, fails to act in the most judicious manner, is not guilty of negligence if he exercises the care of a reasonably prudent person in like circumstances.

As a result, Horton was found to be free of liability in the collision and Posas appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court. Posas argued that the trial judge erred in giving the sudden emergency instruction to the jury. The Nevada Supreme Court agreed with Posas’s position and clarified that the sudden emergency instruction should only be provided to a jury when the actor requesting the instruction is confronted with unexpected conditions while also acting with reasonable care. Because Horton admitted that she was following too closely, the sudden emergency jury instruction could not protect her because it was her negligence that caused her to rear end Posas. The Court noted that the pedestrian in the middle of the street presented an emergency to Posas, not Horton, and for that reason, the sudden emergency jury instruction should only be given to the party facing the emergency, not a party who creates his or her own emergency. The Nevada Supreme Court reversed the trial judge’s judgment and remanded the case back to the district court for a new trial.

For more information on this law and how it may affect you, contact a motorcycle accident attorney, like those from Eglet Adams.