Auto Accident Claims: The Last Clear Chance Doctrine Defense

In the contributory negligence system, the plaintiff is barred from receiving any type of compensation if the defendant can prove that the plaintiff was responsible in any way. So if you are the defendant for an auto accident claim, familiarizing yourself with common defenses can help you avoid paying up. One of the most common doctrines used as a defense is the last clear chance doctrine, which will be explained in further detail in this article.

The Basics of the Last Clear Chance Doctrine

The last clear chance doctrine is a principle under tort law that basically states that the defendant, in this case you, is not responsible if he or she has taken every measure possible to avoid the accident after the initial act of negligence, but the plaintiff, who is suing you, had a clear chance of avoiding the accident.

For example, let's say you were speeding in the rain and ended up colliding into another vehicle. Obviously, your initial action led to the accident; however, the last clear chance doctrine could be utilized if the other party had ample time to swerve and avoid you.

In short, according to the last clear chance doctrine, the burden of avoiding the accident would be on the plaintiff who is suing you. The keyword here, however, is clear. You must prove that the plaintiff had sufficient time to react, which could have avoided the accident, but failed to do so as a result of his or her own negligence or fault.

Proving the Last Clear Chance Doctrine

If your auto accident attorney is convinced that the last clear chance doctrine will be a sufficient defense, you will need to provide sufficient evidence to back up your claims. This doctrine is normally backed up by circumstantial evidence, but you should try to find something more concrete – like witness testimonies – to back up your claim. It's important to outline when and what the chance for avoiding the accident is in detail based on the unique circumstances of your case.


Although the last clear chance doctrine is a rather popular defense, it is difficult to prove in court. To successfully implement this defense, you'll need legal advice or assistant from an experienced auto accident attorney because it can be difficult to prove in court. It is unwise to attempt otherwise since you'll need to have a very compelling and convincing argument backed up by appropriate evidence.