As is often the case, an accident between two vehicles can subsequently involve further vehicles not initially involved in the initial rear-ending accident. The driver of the subsequent vehicle which becomes involved in an accident after the initial crash may be unsure whether they are for damages caused by their own involvement or are able to make a claim for their own damages suffered. The possibility of being responsible or owed for damages in a multiple vehicle accident almost always depends on the circumstances surrounding the driver of the following car involved in the collision after the initial accident.
It is generally presumed under the law the vehicle following other vehicles involved in an accident will be at fault for the resulting accident when it collides with the initial collided vehicles. However, a driver can avoid this presumption of liability if it is shown they were following at a safe distance under the circumstances, their vehicle was under control, and they were closely observing the vehicle ahead of them. There is an additional method of proving no fault for liability referred to as the sudden emergency doctrine. A following driver may be absolved of liability under the sudden emergency doctrine if it is demonstrated the lead driver negligently created a hazard which could not reasonably be avoided. A court is going to look at the circumstances from which the emergency arose and determine whether the person in the position of imminent peril had sufficient time to consider and weigh all circumstances or the best means to adopt to avoid the impending danger of the emergency.
A recent case before the Second Circuit Court of Appeal of Louisiana, King v. State Farm Insurance Co., succinctly demonstrates the applicability of the sudden emergency doctrine in absolving the following driver from complete liability while awarding the following driver damages for injuries incurred. In this case, Ms. King was following a vehicle which struck another vehicle from the rear. Ms. King then swerved onto the shoulder to avoid the accident. Unfortunately, at the same time Ms. King swerved, the vehicle in front of her bounced to the side of the collision directly into Ms. King’s path on the shoulder where she impacted it. The court looked favorably upon the facts that Ms. King had been traveling beneath the speed limit, was observing the car in front of her, and was at a relatively reasonable behind the lead car. The court found that in addition to this the lead driver had created the emergency situation through his own collision, and Mrs. King had taken reasonable precautions by braking, and steering away from the accident. Despite her precautions, the unexpected turning of the vehicle into her emergency path was something she could not have sufficiently avoided in time. Hence, the court found the lead driver had created a hazard resulting in a Ms. King facing a sudden emergency. The court found the lead driver 100% at fault for the damages and injuries Ms. King suffered as a result of the lead driver’s original collision.
In a case involving liability of parties, the court must assess the relative fault of each of the parties. A following driver will not be responsible for liability under the sudden emergency doctrine, unless their actions caused the emergency. In the example case above, the lead driver was found to have created the emergency, and thus Ms. King was at no fault in the subsequent collision. The Court of Appeal of Louisiana held that the trial court had correctly awarded Ms. King for the damages and injuries she had suffered as a result of the accident.
If you believe you have a claim arising from a multiple vehicle accident, contact the Berniard Law Firm. Providing the best experts in liability and assessing accident claims, our law firm is fully capable of meeting your litigation needs.
Call the Berniard Law Firm at Toll-Free at 1-866-574-8005 and an attorney specializing in vehicle accidents will be more than happy to help you get the litigation support you need.