Personal injury Library

What Is the Unavoidable Accident Defense?

Insurance company lawyers often argue that yours was an "unavoidable car accident." Here's how that works:

As we've discussed in other articles, insurance companies are notorious for misusing certain defenses in their efforts to avoid fairly compensating car accident victims. One particularly heinous defense tactic is called the "unavoidable accident" defense.

Questions Answered in This Article:

  • How does the "unavoidable accident" defense work?
  • How would a car insurance carrier use this argument in my case?
  • What are legitimate examples of the unavoidable accident defense?

How this defense is supposed to work:

The default assumption of the court in any personal injury case is that the defendant who has been sued is innocent unless the injured plaintiff can prove otherwise. So the burden is on you to prove that the other party is at fault for your accident.

In any given murder-mystery / courtroom drama, you've probably seen how lawyers for the accused murder use certain pre-packaged defense strategies such as the "temporary insanity" defense, or "self defense," both of which are used to explain to the court why the accused murderer shouldn't be found guilty of murder. In other words, by presenting these arguments to the court, the bad guy's lawyer isn't saying that he didn't do it, rather, they're saying that he shouldn't be held accountable because he had a good excuse to do what he did.

Well, the same concept applies in car accident injury cases. There are certain pre-packaged defense arguments that lawyers who represent the guy who hurt you can use in order to avoid liability. Now, helping a legitimate bad guy avoid being held responsible isn't why these pre-packaged defenses exist. They exist in order to keep unscrupulous plaintiffs from arbitrarily blaming an innocent person for their injuries. Nevertheless, insurance carriers and their adjusters and lawyers are notorious for using certain defense arguments not to help their innocent or falsely accused client, but in order to protect clients they know to be at-fault.

One such defense argument is the "unavoidable accident" argument. The way this argument is supposed to be used is that it argued in order to fend off claims for compensation when the defendant literally did not cause the accident but was nevertheless involved in the accident. An "unavoidable accident" is one in which an unforeseen, nonhuman condition caused the defendant's vehicle to crash into yours. The concept allows the jury to decide that the defendant and you had absolutely ZERO fault. In fact, when a defendant presents this defense argument to a jury, they're essentially asking the jury to believe the accidents happened through the fault of no one.

Texas courts are torn on when it's appropriate for a defendant to make this argument, but one clear cut example of when the court says this argument is appropriate is when an accident is caused by a very young child. The court reasons that someone so young does not possess the mental faculties to be capable of committing an act of negligence. So, you can think of the unavoidable accident defense as being akin to the none-of-the-above option in a multiple choice question. In trial when a jury is asked to apportion fault among all the parties of the lawsuit, if given an option to select unavoidable accident, by doing so they're essentially saying that they don't think anyone was at fault. The result of this is that the defendant does not have to pay the injured plaintiff any money.

How insurance carriers abuse this defense.

It's very difficult to conceive of a legitimate use of the unavoidable accident defense precisely because most accidents are entirely avoidable. So, in reality, when insurance carriers plea this defense, what they're basically doing is hoping that the jury will see this as an opportunity to say that no one is at fault, even when the defendant clearly is at fault. You may be wondering why any jury would do this, but in many counties across Texas, juries have a negative outlook on lawsuits in general. And many juries welcome the opportunity to award nothing.

As we stated in the beginning of this article, oftentimes insurance carriers attempt to argue that an accident is unavoidable (and they therefore do not have to compensate you) when the accident was actually quite avoidable. This is particularly bad because the insurance adjuster will often use this defense when they know that they should pay.

There are several common accident scenarios where insurance carriers are likely to plea the unavoidable accident defense:

  • Accidents with child pedestrians or bicyclists. Adjusters often use this defense by claiming that a child pedestrian or biker "jumped" out in front of them, thereby making the claim unavoidable.
  • Accidents where one party pulls out of a parking lot or side street. The argument is based on the notion that some visual obstruction caused the defendant not to be able to adequately gauge whether or not they could safely execute the maneuver.
  • Accidents involving any type inclement weather. The defense will argue that rain, ice, or snow made the road slick and therefore an accident was unavoidable.
  • Accidents that take place in the dark or where vision is limited

In each of these scenarios, there is likely an act of negligence that occurred in conjunction with some element that was out of the defendant's hands. Therefore, the defendants and/or their insurance carrier will attempt to argue that the other factor was exclusively the cause of the accident, thereby attempting to escape responsibility.

Occasionally, these argument are so patently absurd that we'll file a motion with the court to exclude them entirely from the jury. But there are smart defense attorneys out there who may be able to at least convince a judge to allow the jury to consider their arguments. This increases the danger that a jury might be duped into believing that the entire accident was just "one of those things" and leave you with nothing.

Call Grossman Law Offices.

It is challenging enough for a non-attorney to go up against the insurance company alone. When you add in the fact that insurance carriers are willing to exploit loopholes in the law and use defenses in a way that they were never intended by lawmakers to be used, the scales are tipped in their favor. To win, you need representation from an experienced automobile accident attorney who has the adequate resources to investigate your case, provide you with the best legal services available, and help you obtain the compensation that you deserve.

In an insurance carrier is willing to bring out this unavoidable accident defense, they're essentially saying they are willing to lie and manipulate ultimately hoping to avoid responsibility for the harm they've caused. Obviously you're going to need a car accident lawyer who knows how to fight back against these tactics.

To learn more about how to defeat the misuse of the unavoidable accident defense or to discuss your legal claim, call our law firm at (855) 326-0000 to receive a free consultation.

Commonly, we've also seen the defendant party use one of the following defenses to combat your car accident case. Click on any of the articles below to read more:

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