Holding Drivers Accountable in Maryland Car Accidents Caused by Emergency Situations

Unfortunately, Maryland drivers encounter dangerous situations all the time—a car stopped in the middle of the road, debris blocking the roadway, or even a chain-reaction crash. Yet, even when a Maryland driver encounters a dangerous situation, the driver must respond reasonably to the situation under the circumstances. Failure to do so may make the driver liable for resulting injuries. Under Maryland law, a driver who “suddenly finds himself in a position of peril” is not expected to exercise the same care as when the driver has sufficient time to decide what he should do. This is known as the emergency doctrine and may apply in some Maryland accident cases. However, the doctrine does not apply when the peril comes about because of the driver’s own negligence or if the driver is not actually in a position of sudden peril. Where a driver does take an action in response to the emergency, a jury (or judge) must consider whether the driver made a choice that a reasonable, prudent person would make considering the choices he had and the time he had to recognize and evaluate those choices.

In a recent case involving the sudden emergency doctrine before one state appellate court, the court explained how and where the sudden emergency doctrine applies under that state’s law. In that case, the defendant was driving on the highway and changed lanes and passed a stopped vehicle to avoid crashing into the stopped vehicle. The plaintiff’s husband’s vehicle was behind the defendant’s vehicle and crashed into the stopped vehicle. The plaintiff’s husband died and the plaintiff filed a wrongful death action against the defendant and others.

The defendant argued that the sudden emergency doctrine applied and acted as a complete defense. The defendant argued that the sudden emergency was the stopped car that he encountered in the road. The plaintiff argued that the defendant created the emergency by changing lanes at an unreasonably late time for the plaintiff’s husband to see the stopped car. The plaintiff argued that the sudden emergency was the husband’s inability to see the stopped car because of the defendant’s late lane change.

The court held that an emergency or peril under the sudden emergency doctrine depends on the circumstances that the defendant faced. Thus, the defendant’s lane change was irrelevant to the sudden emergency doctrine. The only relevant emergency was the one defendant faced at the time. Considering this, the court found that the sudden emergency was the stopped car in the roadway and that the defendant responded reasonably. It found the sudden emergency doctrine provided the defendant with a complete defense and dismissed the claim against the defendant.

Have You Been Injured Because of Someone Else’s Negligence?

If you have been seriously injured in a Maryland car accident, obtain legal counsel as soon as possible. Experienced counsel can advise you on your options and what steps to take immediately to preserve evidence as well as your rights. The attorneys at the Maryland law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen have the experience and the skills to competently and effectively handle Maryland accident cases. We will not recover any legal fees unless we obtain a settlement or a judgment in your favor. Contact us online via our online form or call us toll-free at 800-654-1949 for a free consultation.

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