In almost all motor vehicle accident cases, the courts in Florida recognize that drivers owe a duty to all other road users to exercise reasonable care in the operation of that vehicle. However, there are some narrow instances in which the rules are flexed. One of those is the “sudden emergency doctrine.”
The courts have recognized that a driver who is confronted with an emergency isn’t held to the same standard of conduct that would normally be applied to someone who is not in that same situation. This lesser standard of care may be applied when the driver, through no fault of his own, is suddenly and unexpectedly confronted with imminent danger to himself or others. But not every unexpected occurrence is to be considered a “sudden emergency.” For example, motor vehicle drivers have to be prepared for the appearance of obstacles, persons or other vehicles on highways and at intersections. The fact that a driver is surprised by one of these conditions isn’t necessarily a “sudden emergency.”
This was the argument of plaintiff in Tidd v. Kroshus, recently before the North Dakota Supreme Court.