Common Defenses Encountered in a Car Accident Lawsuit

Have you been injured in a car accident due to the negligence or wrongful misconduct of another? California law may entitle you to compensation, but it's important to note that you're likely to come across some defense arguments that could present a serious barrier to your recovery. By understanding the potential defense arguments that you may encounter over the course of car accident litigation, you will be better prepared to understand how to overcome the defenses and succeed in obtaining the compensation you deserve.

Let's explore some of the more common defenses encountered in the car accident lawsuit context. Consider the following.

Sudden Emergency Doctrine

In California, those who cause others to suffer injuries (in the car accident context and otherwise) may avoid liability by asserting that their actions were in response to a sudden emergency. For example, if you collide with another vehicle on the highway that merges into your lane without sufficient advance warning, then the defendant-driver might attempt to avoid liability for your injuries by arguing that they were avoiding a road hazard.

Whether you can overcome this defense will depend largely on the circumstances surrounding the supposed "sudden emergency." Defendants cannot avoid liability unless they show that a reasonable person - in the same situation - would have done what the defendant did in response to the sudden emergency. If the defendant's behavior was too far beyond the norm, then you can still impose liability on them and secure damages.

Intervening Cause

You can only recover damages if you can show that the defendant's conduct proximately caused your injuries. If some intervening cause "cut off" the chain of causation linking their actions with the injurious consequences you experienced, then liability will not attach to the defendant.

It can be quite complicated to determine whether there was some other, intervening cause that cuts off liability. Generally speaking, courts will evaluate whether the intervening event was reasonably foreseeable. If, for example, the defendant committed negligence by speeding behind you, then could ostensibly hold them liable for a subsequent accident linked to their "bullying" road behavior. The consequences are reasonably foreseeable. On the other hand, if a lightning bolt came down from the sky and popped your tire, causing you to lose control of your vehicle and get into an accident, then that would suffice as an "intervening cause." The event was not reasonably foreseeable.

Defendant Did Not Violate the Standard of Care

Whether the defendant committed negligence is dependent on the standard of care applicable to the circumstances (and if the defendant's conduct violated that standard of care). When attempting to avoid liability for a car accident, the defendant-driver will almost certainly argue that their actions were not out-of-comport with the standard of care. In other words, the defendant is saying that a reasonable person in their position (at the time of the accident) would have acted similarly. Their behavior was not inconsistent with norm.

Comparative Fault

California is a pure comparative fault state. What this means is that you - the injured car accident plaintiff - can recover damages even if you are partially at-fault. For example, if you are 30 percent at-fault for your own injuries because you didn't wear your seatbelt, you will be able to recover 70 percent of the total damages.

Though comparative fault is not an "absolute" defense in the sense that the plaintiff is still entitled to recovery, it can reduce the overall damage liability of the defendant. As such, the defendant may argue that you contributed to your own injuries in order to give them additional leverage during settlement negotiations, or as a last-ditch effort to reduce the damages in cases where the defendant is clearly liable.

Contact an Experienced Mountain View Car Accident Attorney for Guidance

If you've been harmed in a car accident that was caused by another's fault (individual or entity), then California law may give you a right of action against the defendant for damages as compensation for your losses. Litigating a car accident claim can be made more difficult in certain circumstances, however, where the defendant may have reasoned arguments for avoiding liability. There are a number of defenses that can be utilized in the car accident context, but - if you're prepared - you can undermine or circumvent these defenses and secure damages.

Here at the Law Offices of Brian J. O'Grady, we have extensive experience litigating claims on behalf of injured clients, including those who have sustained injuries in car accidents. We pride ourselves on our client-focused orientation. Unlike many of our competitors, we engage closely with clients at every stage of the dispute process, and strive to lower the barriers of communication so that our clients are fully-informed of their rights, opportunities, and limitations.

Curious about your claims and how to proceed?

Call our firm today at (650) 318-6131 or submit a message online to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Mountain View car accident attorney here at the Law Offices of Brian J. O'Grady.