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What Is The Last Clear Chance Doctrine?


Imagine for a moment that you are a pedestrian, crossing the street. You are legally crossing at a crosswalk, and you have the signal to cross. You look to your right, and you see that a car is coming, at what seems to be a high rate of speed. As it approaches the intersection, it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Nonetheless, you do have the right of way, so you proceed into the intersection. You are hit by the car. Is the driver of the car at fault? Likely so—but the answer to that question is not as clear as you may think because of what is known as the last clear chance doctrine.

What is Last Clear Chance?

The last clear chance doctrine asks which party, the Plaintiff or Defendant (victim or liable party), could have avoided the accident, but did not.

In our example above, it may seem like you, the pedestrian, did everything right, and the driver of the car did everything wrong. But you did have the chance to avoid the oncoming car; you did see it, with enough time to avoid it, and you proceeded into the intersection anyway. You had a chance to avoid the accident but did not.

Because of that, a jury will likely find you responsible, at least to some extent, for the accident—even though you had every legal right to cross when you did, and even though the other driver was careless and negligent in hitting you in the intersection.

Both Parties Can be Liable

The last clear chance doctrine can apply to either party, victim or Defendant.

In our example above, you, as the pedestrian, can also say that the driver could have and should have seen you and slowed down, had every opportunity to do so, but failed to do that. Thus, the victim would argue that the driver had the last clear chance to avoid the accident but did not.

Relationship to Comparative Negligence

The last clear chance doctrine is really just an element of comparative negligence. Comparative negligence is the idea that a jury can look at the actions of both the Plaintiff and the Defendant, and assess how liable each is for the accident. Any percentage that the Plaintiff is liable for his or her own injuries or the accident, is a percentage that the Plaintiff will not receive in compensation.

So, in our pedestrian example above, if a jury found that the pedestrian could have seen the car and avoided the accident, and finds the pedestrian 60% liable for his or her own injuries, and finds the pedestrian suffered $100,000 in damages, the pedestrian would only receive $40,000 of that compensation due to the pedestrian having the last clear chance to avoid the accident.

Call the West Palm Beach personal injury attorneys at Pike & Lustig today for help if you were in an accident and are being blamed for your own accident or injuries.




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