Court Excuses Truck Driver’s Response to “Sudden Emergency”

Legal News GavelThe ultimate question in a New Mexico truck accident case is whether the truck driver was negligent, and whether any such negligence was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Over time, courts have come up with various legal doctrines to help make these determinations. One such doctrine is called the “sudden emergency doctrine.” A recent case illustrates its application.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was rear-ended by a truck driver after another motorist aggressively passed the vehicle in front of the plaintiff and then slammed on the brakes. Based on the aggressive driver’s conduct, the car in front of the plaintiff also slammed on their brakes, causing the plaintiff to do the same. The defendant, however, was operating a fully-loaded semi-truck, and despite his efforts to come to a safe stop in time, he crashed into the back of the plaintiff’s vehicle.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the defendant truck driver, who claimed that he had not acted negligently because he was merely responding to the “sudden emergency” created by the aggressive driver slamming on his brakes.

The court agreed with the truck driver and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The court explained that under the “sudden emergency doctrine” a defendant who can prove that he reasonably reacted to a sudden emergency which he did not cause cannot be held liable for any injuries caused as a result of his actions.

New Mexico’s Comparative Negligence Law

New Mexico courts did away with the “sudden emergency doctrine,” as well as other similar doctrines, back in the early 1990s. Instead, New Mexico courts rely on a comparative negligence analysis in which each party’s relative culpability is considered, and a party is only responsible for their own share of the blame.

Thus, had the above case arisen in New Mexico, a court would assign fault to each of the motorists involved. So, for example, had the jury determined that the aggressive motorist was 75% at fault, the defendant 25% at fault, and the plaintiff completely free of fault, the defendant would still be held liable for 25% of the damages suffered by the plaintiff.

When viewed this way, it can be seen why New Mexico’s comparative negligence law is more favorable to personal injury victims than the all-or-nothing approach of other alternative methods of determining liability.

Have You Been Injured in a New Mexico Truck Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a New Mexico truck accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. This may be the case even if you bore some responsibility in causing an accident that was primarily caused by the negligence of another driver. The experienced New Mexico truck accident lawyers at the Fine Law Firm have extensive experience handling a wide range of personal injury cases, including complex truck accidents involving multiple parties and insurance companies. To learn more, call 505-889-FINE to schedule tour free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

New Mexico Court Affirms Plaintiff’s $164 Million Jury Verdict in Recent Truck Accident Case, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, July 6, 2018.

Hydroplaning in New Mexico: What is it and How Does it Occur?, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, July 18, 2018.