Sudden Emergency Doctrine: Serious Truck-SUV Collision Raises Fault Questions

On Behalf of | Apr 7, 2015 | Car Wrecks

A teenager is dead after her car was rear-ended on the North Side, and although liability seems fairly clear, a jury may be asked to decide who was at fault for this car crash. According to the San Antonio Police Department, a Mitsubishi SUV pulled to a stop in the left lane of westbound Interstate 10 near Wurzbach Road after one of its tires blew out. On that stretch of highway, the left shoulder is not wide enough for a vehicle. A Ford F-150 apparently did not see the Mitsubishi and slammed into it from behind. A 19-year-old woman was in the Mitsubishi’s front passenger seat, and although she was rushed to University Hospital in critical condition, she was later pronounced dead.

The Mitsubishi’s driver was also injured, but that person is expected to survive. The collision occurred at about 4:00 on a Sunday afternoon.


If the young woman’s family sues the Ford driver for damages, the insurance company will almost certainly assert the sudden emergency doctrine as a defense. This theory holds that apparently negligent people are excused from liability if they were responding to an unanticipated emergency.

Like most defenses, and especially its cousin, the so-called last clear chance doctrine, sudden emergency is almost totally dependent on the facts of the case. To prove this defense in Texas, the defendant must show that:

  • There was a sudden and unexpected emergency,
  • The situation was not proximately caused by the defendant, and
  • The defendant acted reasonably and prudently under the circumstances.

The above case could very well turn on how the jury views a “sudden and unexpected” emergency. Typically, these cases involve a child darting onto the street between parked cars, a flatbed truck losing its load, a hood flying open and obstructing view, or some similar unanticipated situation. A motorist can fairly assume that other cars may slow down for various reason(s), especially if the traffic is at least moderate. But this case involved a vehicle which was completely stopped in the left lane on a Sunday afternoon, when traffic may have been light.

If the defendant is found liable, the plaintiff’s damages could include cash compensation for both economic losses, such as lost wages and medical bills, and non-economic losses, including pain and suffering. Punitive damages may also be available in some cases.

The insurance company will do its best to prevent you from obtaining fair compensation for your injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced New Braunfels personal injury attorney, contact our office. You have a limited amount of time to act.