Sometimes, it is easy to determine fault in a car accident. For example, a proper investigation will reveal whether the other driver was drunk or on drugs at the time.
In rare situations, at-fault drivers may be immune from liability if they collide with another motorist during an emergency.
The imminent peril doctrine
All drivers carry a responsibility to operate motor vehicles safely and carefully. If they fail in this responsibility and a car accident occurs, they become liable for any harm victims suffer.
The imminent peril doctrine could exempt a driver from accident liability if they cause a crash amid a medical emergency or imminent peril. According to California’s civil jury instructions, the doctrine allows people to act, possibly without consequences, in crisis situations.
Examples of when the doctrine may apply
Drivers must still respond to an emergency prudently, but extreme circumstances may affect their judgment or their ability to drive safely. Examples of abrupt emergencies in which the imminent peril doctrine may be used as a defense include:
- Heart attack
- Loss of consciousness
- Prescription drug side effect
Sometimes, sudden emergencies do lead to unavoidable auto accidents. Other times, drivers or even insurance companies may invoke the doctrine improperly to reduce their legal liability for crash injuries.
Fortunately for injured victims, the law requires parties to prove that imminent peril or a sudden medical emergency played a role in the crash. In simpler terms, frivolous attempts to escape liability by wrongfully invoking the doctrine rarely succeed.
Experienced legal guidance helps you overcome obstacles (including phony imminent peril defenses) that could prevent you from getting the compensation you deserve.