Last Clear Chance Doctrine

I wrote a Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog post about property damage claims and a property damage dispute my Dad had a year or so ago. I received a comment explaining to me that the defendant’s insurance company was asserting the last clear chance doctrine.

Thanks for the comment which comes with a “that’s what I would expect from a PI lawyer” smear. And it sounds, right. Last clear chance sounds like something you would expect to come out of the mouth of an insurance company accident lawyer, right?

But no. In Maryland, the “last clear chance” is not a defense asserted by the defendant. Instead, it is asserted by Maryland accident lawyers on behalf of accident victims. It is asserted by plaintiffs. Las clear chance is a defense to a defendant’s claim that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent. In Maryland, contributory negligence is generally a bar to recovery.

But the last clear chance doctrine allows a contributorily negligent accident victim to recover a financial award if: (i) the defendant is negligent; (ii) the plaintiff is contributorily negligent; and (iii) the plaintiff makes a showing of something new or sequential, which affords the defendant a fresh opportunity (of which he fails to avail herself or himself) to avert the consequences of his own original negligence.

This doctrine of last clear chance has been the generally unchanged law in Maryland over the last 140 years.