If you are driving and there is a sudden emergency—for example, an accident takes place in front of you and you instinctively swerve to avoid the collision—can you be held liable for your own actions? In many cases, the answer is no. Georgia law recognizes a “sudden emergency” defense. This applies when a person faces a “sudden peril” and, lacking adequate time to assess the situation, takes immediate action that may result in injury to another. Keep in mind, this defense is only available when the person asserting it did not actually cause the emergency.
Smith v. Norfolk Southern Railway Company
The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed the application of the emergency defense doctrine to a wrongful death lawsuit arising from a series of accidents that took place on and around a railroad crossing located in Gwinnett County. A pickup truck was traveling southbound towards the crossing. The driver of the truck sped towards a yellow light. The light turned red as the truck entered the intersection. At this point, the truck collided with a van that was attempting to make a left-hand turn into the intersection.