Civil Jury Negligence Charges

5.10G – Sudden Emergency


A. Sudden Emergency, Effect on Negligence
In connection with the question of (contributory) negligence, it has been asserted that the defendant (plaintiff) was confronted with a sudden emergency. Where a person, without any fault on his/her part, is confronted with a sudden emergency, that is, is placed in a sudden position of imminent peril not reasonably to be anticipated, the law will not charge him/her with negligence if he/she does not select the very wisest course in choosing between alternative courses of action. An honest mistake of judgment in such a sudden emergency will not, of itself, constitute negligence, although another course might have been better and safer. All that is required of such a person is that he/she exercises the care of a reasonably prudent person under like circumstances.

It is for you the jury to determine from the evidence whether such an emergency existed, whether it arose without the fault of that person and whether that person acted with due care under the circumstances.

The law recognizes that one acting in a sudden emergency may have no time for thought and so cannot weigh alternative courses of action but must make a speedy decision which will be based on impulse or instinct. What is required of a person in such an emergency is that he/she act reasonably and with ordinary care under such circumstances.

However, if the emergency arose in whole or in part by reason of the fault, that is, a lack of due care, of that person in the events preceding the emergency, then this rule of sudden emergency does not apply to excuse him/her even though his/her conduct during the emergency does meet the standard of reasonable care referred to.

B. Defendant’s Liability for Effects of Emergency
When one without negligence on his/her part is put by the negligence of another under a reasonable apprehension of emergent serious personal physical injury, and in a reasonable and bona fide and well-meant effort to escape, the former sustains physical injury, a right of action arises against the person creating such emergency to recover for the damages proximately resulting therefrom.

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