Unavoidable Accident

What is an Unavoidable Accident?

An unavoidable accident is an accident that is not caused by the negligence of any party, and one that could not be prevented by the exercise of due care. When the Defendant argues that a car accident was an unavoidable accident, the defendant is essentially arguing that he could not have done anything to prevent the accident.

Is an Unavoidable Accident an Affirmative Defense or an Inferential Rebuttal?

There is slight tension between older Texas case law and newer Texas case law concerning whether an unavoidable accident is an affirmative defense or an inferential rebuttal. Older Texas case law held that unavoidable accident was an affirmative defense, but newer case law holds that it is an inferential rebuttal.

Nonetheless, the law is clear that unavoidable accident language will not be put in the jury charge unless there is evidence supporting the claim.

What Happens when the Unavoidable Accident Argument is Successful?

If a jury finds that a car wreck was an unavoidable accident, the defendant does not have to pay the plaintiff any damages. This means that the plaintiff will be stuck with all of the bills related to the accident.

Can a Defendant use multiple inferential rebuttals?

The defendant can plead as many inferential rebuttals as the defendant wants. However, Texas courts disfavor allowing the defendant to include multiple inferential rebuttals in the jury charge. This is because the presence of multiple inferential rebuttal instructions could bias the jury. No matter what inferential rebuttal the defendant choses to plead the defendant must offer proof to support the defense.

Texas cases where the Defendant used the Unavoidable Accident Defense:

  • In Gomez v. Cook, a couple was on a cross-country trip. The husband was driving a pickup truck with a camper attached. When the couple reached Houston, the husband needed to make a right turn. As the wife looked down at her GPS, the truck veered to the left. The Husband had suddenly suffered a stroke and became unresponsive. The wife attempted to remove her husband’s foot from the gas petal but she was too late. The truck and camper had already crashed into six vehicles. The Husband was sued by one of the drivers that he hit. The court allowed the husband to claim that the crash was an unavoidable accident.
  • In Davis v. Thompson, Cameron Davis lost control of her car and hit a guardrail. Her car flipped landed in the road in front of incoming traffic. David Thompson saw the car flip but could not stop in time. At trail, the court determined that Thompson could use the unavoidable accident defense to defeat Davis’ lawsuit. (581 S.W.282)