Defenses in Personal Injury Claims involving Motor Vehicles

July 29, 2016 in Personal Injury Articles | MARTIN WREN, P.C. | LEAVE A COMMENT

Virginia Personal Injury Lawyers

Understanding defenses in motor vehicle injury cases can help plaintiffs see the big picture of their case. Before your Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer brings your case, it is important to examine the possible defenses to your case. We will look at three major defenses to motor vehicle injury claims: sudden emergency, unavoidable accident, and the choice of paths doctrine. 

sudden emergencies and who can use this defense

It may seem intuitive that to apply this doctrine, the emergency must actually be “sudden,” but there will always be debate about what constitutes a crisis as sudden. Any situation where a driver is aware of potential peril and dangers can be expected would not be “sudden.”

An example of an emergency that would not be considered sudden could include weather. If a driver sees a snowstorm developing while he is driving up a mountain, it would be reasonable for him to assume there could be a vehicle stopped on the road ahead. If he were to crash into a stopped vehicle, this would not be considered a sudden emergency.

This is a particularly interesting defense because the plaintiff can also invoke this doctrine as a defense to a contributory negligence claim. In Virginia, if a plaintiff’s actions in any way contributed to the accident or injury, they are barred from recovering damages. If you were injured and your case involved a sudden emergency on your end, however, this could be your defense to contributory negligence. The Virginia Supreme Court has stated, “One who negligently places another in a position of sudden peril may not complain that the other fails to react with wisdom and promptness,” allowing no room for contributory negligence in this case.

unavoidable accidents

There is rarely an accident devoid of fault, so the doctrine of unavoidable accidents is rarely applied. However, this defense is still an important one to understand in case it applies to your case. In this defense, the injury occurred by an accident that happened by chance, and could not have been avoided even by exercising due care.

An example of this would be a brake system failing on a parked car and causing a motor vehicle to roll into another parked car even though the brake system was engaged. If there had been no previous signs that the brake system would malfunction, the driver would have no way of knowing that this accident could have occurred. The driver exercised due care by engaging the brakes, but, without warning to the driver, the brakes did not function properly.

choice of paths doctrine

The choice of paths doctrine is a defense to a motor vehicle injury claim that falls under contributory negligence. If a plaintiff chooses an observably dangerous path or course of conduct, they contributed to any damage or injury they sustain.

An example of a dangerous course of conduct would be failing to keep a lookout for potential dangers on the road. Even if a driver has the right of way, they can still be partially at fault if there is a perceivable danger and he or she fails to act appropriately. If a driver has the right of way at a stop sign, and they see another car moving through the intersection without a right of way, they would be partially liable if they fail to react and are involved in an accident with the other vehicle.

recover the damages you deserve

The caring and experienced legal team at MartinWren, P.C. Attorneys at Law understands what you are facing with your personal injury claim. The Virginia Personal Injury Lawyers at MartinWren are available to help you recover what you deserve. For more information, contact Kirk D. Becchi at (434) 817-3100.


Contact Our Virginia Lawyers

We serve clients throughout Virginia — from Charlottesville and Central Virginia to metropolitan Richmond; Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley to Roanoke; and the cities of Hampton Roads to the Northern Virginia cities of  Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington.

To speak with one of our attorneys, please call us at (434) 817-3100.

Our Virginia personal injury lawyers at MartinWren, P.C. have a statewide practice and offer free consultations at a time and location that is convenient for you.  We will gladly meet with you at your home or at the hospital, even on nights and weekends.


Disclaimer: Using this contact form or any page of MartinWren, P.C.’s website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  Please do not submit any confidential, privileged, or other protected information until and unless you have completed a private consultation with a MartinWren, P.C. attorney, the attorney has informed you that no conflict of interest exists, and the attorney notifies you that the firm can take your case. By completing this form you agree that we can follow up with you by phone, email, or by text messaging.

    *Please enter your initials to acknowledge that you have read and understood the Disclaimer above:

    To schedule a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer, please call us at (434) 817-3100.

    latest firm news