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The Sudden Emergency Doctrine in Idaho Does Not Apply Where Drivers are Driving Too Fast For Conditions


We see a number of automobile collisions involving icy roads due in part to blustery or inclement weather conditions. A former client of mine called to advise that he had been involved in a motor vehicle collision where he was rear ended by another vehicle. The responsible party’s insurance party denied responsibility for our client’s injuries. The insurer claimed that the collision arose as a result of a sudden emergency due to the inclement conditions then and there existing at the time of the collision because of icy road conditions.

The insurance company’s position is a ruse and not well grounded in fact nor warranted by existing law.The so-called sudden emergency doctrine is an overused defense that does not apply to icy road conditions standing alone so says the Idaho Appellate Courts. See generally Teply v. Lincoln, 125 Idaho 773, 875 P.2d 584 (Ct.App. 1994).

In Teply, a car slid out of its lane and crashed into another car. The Idaho Court of Appeals noted that "the Idaho Supreme Court has recognized four limited categories of excusing circumstances: (1) anything that would make compliance with the statute impossible; (2) anything over which the driver has no control which places his vehicle in a position violative of the statute; (3) an emergency not of the driver's own making by reason of which he fails to obey the statute; and (4) an excuse specifically provided by statute." Accordingly, the Idaho Court of Appeals held that as a matter of law that the icy road conditions in and of itself which unexpectedly cause a driver to lose control of a vehicle does not constitute sufficient excuse for a driver's failure to comply with safety statutes relating to the operation of a motor vehicle.

Therefore, in Idaho, the so-called sudden emergency doctrine does not apply where motor vehicle collision was caused due to the other driver was operating a motor vehicle too fast for conditions; that operator cannot escape personal responsibility for negligent driving simply because the collision involved the driving upon icy roads. The sudden emergency doctrine does not apply in such a case, because the so-called emergency is due to the driver's own making for driving too fast for conditions then and there existing.



Alan Morton
Advocate for Justice/Trial Lawyer