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Is it a defense to an automobile accident claim that the accident was "unavoidable?"

By Josh Silverman on October 07, 2013


In an automobile accident claim, the plaintiff must show that the defendant was negligent or careless.  In most cases that means the other driver was going too fast, failed to yield the right of way, failed to maintain proper control of the vehicle, driving while distracted by a cell phone, or driving under the influence of alcohol.  So what happens on a rainy or snowy day and the car slides into an on coming vehicle?  The driver may want to claim that the accident was unavoidable.  However, that is rarely the case.  Under Virginia law, a driver has a duty to maintain proper control of his vehicle.  When the weather turns south, that may mean driving below the speed limit.  A slippery road is not a defense because it is foreseeable in wet or wintery weather.

On the other hand an unforeseeable medical emergency may constitute a defense to an automobile accident.  However, according to the Virginia Supreme Court, it is rarely a legitimate defense.  it must be shown that the medical emergency was sudden, unforeseeable, and importantly the driver acted reasonably under the circumstances. 

In a number of my automobile accident cases the defendant has claimed a sudden medical emergency.  However, in every case the defense has fallen apart after a thorough investigation.

For more information about the rights of people injured in an automobile accident, please visit our auto accident practice section of our website.

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