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Ohio’s Sudden Emergency Defense To Personal Injury Claims

Ohio’s sudden emergency defense to personal injury claims should be considered when pursuing and filing a personal injury case.  You can certainly bet that the insurance company and their lawyers will be considering and raising this defense if they believe it can defeat a personal injury claim.  A good personal injury lawyer always anticipates the defenses in building a case for the client.


What is the sudden emergency doctrine?  The sudden emergency defense consists of:

  1. The person was confronted by a sudden or unexpected emergency;
  2. The claimed emergency was not the result of any fault of the person or any circumstance under the person’s control; and
  3. The person exercised such care as a reasonably cautious person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances.


In doing so, the person is required to prove that the sudden and unforeseeable emergency made compliance with Ohio law impossible (such as driving left of center into oncoming traffic).  Even if presented with a sudden emergency, the person must still use “ordinary care under the circumstances.”  A self-created emergency, one arising from his or her own conduct or from circumstances under his or her own control, cannot serve as an excuse.


Examples of possible sudden emergency defenses include:

  1. Losing consciousness from an unforeseen cause.
  2. Colliding with a deer that shatters one’s windshield.
  3. Heart attack.


Examples of unsuccessful sudden emergency defenses include:

  1. Ice and snow on the road, because poor road conditions are foreseeable.
  2. Brake failure (but some other states allow this to be a defense).
  3. Mental illness or insanity.


The Ohio Supreme Court was asked to abolish the sudden emergency defense because it conflicts with motor vehicle laws designed to protect the public.  For good reasons, Ohio laws prohibit going left of center into on-coming traffic, changing lanes unsafely, and disregarding a red light or stop sign.  Another reason for abolishing the sudden emergency doctrine is that it prevents recovery for innocent drivers who are injured by the actions of other drivers.  The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the doctrine.  However, the Court emphasized that sufficient proof is necessary to establish this defense.  The Court also pointed out that the defense often fails due to simple human error at some level that is separate from the sudden emergency.



Attorney Gigiano is an experienced Medina County accident attorney in Wadsworth.  His positive work is reflected in the client reviews for Daniel Gigiano, reviews in websites, and reflections of his work.  Call Attorney Gigiano at 330-336-3330 if you need the services of a Wooster accident attorney near Orrville or a Summit County accident attorney near Barberton, please call Attorney Daniel F. Gigiano at 330-336-3330.


To read more on Ohio personal injury law, click on any of the following links to my other articles related to Ohio personal injury law:  What defenses are available in Ohio personal injury cases; When personal injury is caused by negligence; Negligent entrustment; Medical bills in personal injury cases; Slip and fall personal injury; Two trials may be required in some personal injury cases; What should you do if you involved in a traffic accident; Personal injury tips.  My hard work has resulted in successful results for many of my clients, including the results shown in the case highlights section.  This success is reflected in the following links to my reviews and work:  Daniel Gigiano; Daniel Gigiano reviews; Daniel Gigiano ratings; Daniel Gigiano work; Working with Daniel Gigiano.