Negligence is the failure to use the amount of care an ordinary person would under the same or similar circumstances. A plaintiff can recover damages if they can successfully prove the defendant was negligent. However, a defendant can reduce a plaintiff’s award by a percentage or completely bar them from recovering damages by using defenses to negligence. Even if a defendant can prove a defense, a plaintiff may still have a chance to receive damages in a personal injury lawsuit by using the last clear chance doctrine.
Under the last clear chance doctrine, a defendant may still be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries if they had a chance to avoid injuring the plaintiff. The doctrine is also called a defense to a defense.
In a car accident lawsuit, the plaintiff ignored a stop sign and continued driving. The defendant ran a red light before crashing into the plaintiff’s car, causing the plaintiff to sustain injuries. Under the contributory negligence defense, the plaintiff would be barred from receiving any money from the defendant.
However, the plaintiff can show the defendant had time to stop before hitting them, thereby having the last chance to avoid the accident, then the plaintiff my still be able to receive money.
The doctrine has five elements that must be proven in order to show that the defendant had the last clear chance:
- The plaintiff placed themselves in the situation of danger because of their own negligence
- The plaintiff could not avoid the danger
- The defendant recognized the dangerous situation and had a duty to avoid it
- The defendant failed to avoid the danger despite having an opportunity to avoid it
- As a result of the defendant not avoiding the danger, the plaintiff was injured
Lawsuits are involving last clear chance are complicated because the plaintiff must prove additional elements. Talking to a personal injury attorney will help you understand what is needed to prove this doctrine and still recover damages from the defendant.