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Emergency Doctrine Protects Driver In Auto Accident

By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - When are you responsible for an accident caused by an unforeseen circumstance?

Four teenagers on their way home from the Jersey shore were in a car wreck after one of the teenagers in the backseat untied the bikini top of the 19-year-old driver, who took her hands off the wheel to cover herself.

The teenager who'd pulled the string was killed when the car overturned. Another passenger sued the driver for negligent driving. Was she?

There's something called the emergency doctrine that protects drivers who are faced with sudden and unforeseen circumstances that leaves the driver with little or no time for thought, like a car travelling in the opposite direction that suddenly veers into the driver's lane. But that doctrine does not cover circumstances of the driver's own making, like when he is travelling too fast for the road conditions. So is a bikini prank an unforeseen circumstance or, given that the driver knew she was travelling with knuckleheads, a foreseeable event of her own making?

The court said the accident was not her fault and the emergency doctrine fit the case here.

That said, this case is the parents of teenage drivers' worst nightmare so remind your kids that driving is no joke.

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