What is the “Last Clear Chance” Rule in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

A legal rule known as the “Last Clear Chance” doctrine is normally applied in personal injury cases that involve negligence on both sides. When both the plaintiff and defendant share some degree of fault for an accident, this legal rule may be applied as an exception to the rule of contributory negligence. But it depends on the state and whether or not the case involves contributory negligence or comparative fault.

Continue reading to learn more about the “Last Clear Chance” legal concept, including how it relates to personal injury lawsuits.

Indiana Personal Injury Attorneys 317-881-2700
Indiana Personal Injury Attorneys 317-881-2700

The “Last Clear Chance” Legal Rule

The “Last Clear Chance” legal rule was originally established by judges as an exception to strict contributory negligence laws. In a personal injury case, this legal doctrine allows a plaintiff who was found to be partially at-fault for an accident to still recover damages so long as certain criteria are met. For instance, if a plaintiff were at-fault in an accident, they can still recover damages if the other party (the defendant) could have avoided the accident had they exercised reasonable care and forethought, in a contributory negligence type case.

For the Last Clear Chance” legal rule to be applied, the plaintiff holds the burden of proving:

-They were in immediate or real danger, and unable to disengage from that danger.
-The defendant was aware of the danger.
-The defendant had a practical opportunity to avoid or stop the accident.

Contributory Negligence Law

To better understand how the “Last Clear Chance” doctrine works, it is helpful to learn more about contributory negligence. Now sometimes known as “comparative fault”, contributory negligence was a basic legal concept that was very unfriendly to plaintiffs. It basically decreed that if a plaintiff were found negligent, even in the smallest degree, and their negligence was a cause of the accident, they could not recover any damages from any other at-fault parties.

Most states have done away with the strict, contributory negligence rule, and replaced it with a more forgiving and reasonable, “comparative fault” rule. The comparative fault legal concept is intended to reduce the amount of damages in accordance with the amount of fault the victim contributed to an accident. For example, take a look at Indiana’s comparative fault rule:

Indiana Comparative Fault Rule – IC 34-51-2-6

Indiana Code 34-51-2-6 states that, “the claimant is barred from recovery if the claimant’s contributory fault is greater than the fault of all persons whose fault “proximately” contributed to the claimant’s damages.” This means that if a victim is no more than 50% responsible for the accident and subsequent injuries, they can sue their opponent for compensation to cover medical expenses, hospital bills, lost wages, and more.

On the other hand, if they are at least 50% or more at-fault, they cannot collect compensation for damages from other parties. However, they may be able to collect from their own insurance company. Some states use strict contributory negligence laws, while others use comparative fault. Among the states that use contributory negligence laws, there are many that apply the “Last Clear Chance” law. See our blog, “What is Comparative Fault Analysis in a Personal Injury Case?” to learn more.

Where to Get Trusted Legal Advice Regarding Your Indianapolis Personal Injury Claim

Call the Law Office of Craven, Hoover, and Blazek P.C. at 317-881-2700 to make a personal injury claim in Indianapolis. Licensed accident attorneys, Daniel Craven, Ralph Hoover, and Keith Blazek are ready to pursue your case and obtain a full and fair settlement for your losses. We offer free initial consultations and never collect lawyer fees unless we win compensation for you. Call 317-881-2700 to schedule your complimentary consultation with a seasoned personal injury attorney in Indianapolis, IN today.  We represent injured persons throughout the State of Indiana.

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