The Last Clear Chance Rule

The last clear chance rule is a possible defense against the contributory negligence rule. Under the last clear chance rule, the Plaintiff whose actions contributed to an accident may still succeed in his claim against the Defendant if he can prove that even though he might have been negligent by putting himself in a position of danger, the Defendant was aware of the situation and failed to take steps to avoid the accident. The required elements of this defense are:

The Plaintiff negligently placed himself in danger.

The Plaintiff is then physically unable to get himself out of the position of danger.

The Defendant knows that the Plaintiff is in a position of danger.

The Defendant knows or should know that the Plaintiff cannot get himself out of the position of danger.

The Defendant has the last clear chance to take reasonable action to avoid the accident, yet fails to do so.

For example: Joe begins to cross a busy multi-lane intersection, pulling from a stop sign. He realizes that he will be unable to clear the intersection safely when he sees traffic entering the intersection from the other road on both sides of him. He stops. Sam is on the intersecting road and sees Joe stopped in the road. Sam has the time and room to move around Joe and avoid the accident, but instead hits him in the side. Clearly Joe was negligent because he had a stop sign and Sam did not, but Sam just as clearly had the last clear chance to avoid this accident and did not. Joe will be able to defend the personal injury claim that Sam attempts to make against his insurance policy.

On a side note, if either Sam or Joe had passengers who were injured in this accident, those passengers could pursue personal injury claims against either or both of their insurance carriers since both drivers' actions contributed to the accident and the resulting injuries.

This article is written for informational purposes and is not intended to take the place of competent local legal counsel.

Other articles regarding negligence and liability issues:

An Explanation of Assumed Risk (the Assumption of Risk)

The Boulevard Rule Explained

Comparative Negligence Laws Explained

Contributory Negligence Explained

An Explanation of the Intentional Act or Intentional Injury Exclusion.

Joint and Several Liability

An Explanation of Your Responsibility to Mitigate Your Damages.

Negligent Entrustment Explained

The Black Box in Your Vehicle

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