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“True Accidents” and Sudden Emergencies in Trucking Accidents

There are over 3,000 fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses each year in the United States. With many of these crashes, the trucking company involved will often state that the crash was a “true accident” and that its driver was faced with a sudden emergency that he or she could not avoid.

In October 2016 in New Orleans, a truck killed three pedestrians after leaving the roadway.  The truck driver, operating a tow truck and actively towing a vehicle at the time, crossed an overpass and crashed into a bus stop where the victims were standing.  According to the trucking company, their driver “completely blacked out” while having a seizure.  While the New Orleans Police Department stated that there was an ongoing investigation as to the cause of the fatal accident, the trucking company has stated that the seizure suffered by their driver was his first seizure, and that doctors have confirmed this diagnosis and even prescribed him anti-seizure medication following the crash.  Within days of the fatal crash, the victims’ families were contacted by lawyers for the trucking company.  The trucking company has expressed its sorrow and condolences to these families for what they are calling a “true accident.”

In calling this event a “true accident,” this trucking company is likely doing what many companies do following an accident of this type:  asserting what is called a “sudden emergency defense” and stating that there was no way their driver could have avoided this crash, all in a calculated effort to avoid liability.  In the face of a true sudden emergency, a driver is expected to act with reasonable care under the emergency circumstances, which may serve to reduce a driver’s legal responsibility for the injuries they cause.

In Tennessee, for example, the sudden emergency doctrine “recognizes that a person confronted with a sudden or unexpected emergency which calls for immediate action is not expected to exercise the same accuracy of judgment as one acting under normal circumstances who has time for reflection and thought before acting,” according to McCall v. Wilder.  However, it is important to note that the emergency situation cannot be created by the driver, and it must truly be an unforeseeable emergency.  While truck drivers may certainly experience medical problems while driving, this doesn’t mean they are automatically protected from being held liable for the injuries and damages they cause.  When a trucking company states that a terrible crash is just a “true accident,” that may not be correct, and it is essential to have the right tools to properly investigate the facts and circumstances to make sure that those who cause injuries are held accountable.

Enlisting the help of an experienced personal injury attorney is crucial in cases like these in order to make sure that trucking companies are held accountable in cases where they are legally responsible for causing personal injuries to others. Attorneys are able to investigate the scene of the crash, hire expert accident reconstructionists and trucking industry experts.  Attorneys are able to obtain important medical records and driving histories of the truck drivers, and they are able to dig deeper to determine whether a truly unforeseeable medical emergency exists or whether a trucking company is improperly trying to avoid liability for the victim’s injuries and losses.

Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to protect the rights of the victims of trucking accidents is essential to securing proper recovery for those who desperately need it. Call Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz today at 1-800-LAW-4004 for a free consultation with one of our lawyers.