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A child darting into traffic, a car crossing over into the opposing lane of traffic, uncontrolled skidding on ice into another vehicle—all of these situations may elicit the emergency doctrine as a defense to liability. This doctrine provides that those faced with a sudden and unexpected circumstance, not of their own making, that leaves them with little or no time for reflection, may not be held negligent if their actions are reasonable and prudent in the context of the emergency. It should be pleaded as an affirmative defense.1 It is most frequently interposed in motor vehicle cases. The emergency doctrine defines the duty of care to which a party should be held and not whether the party was guilty of negligence.

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