The Last Clear Chance Doctrine Can Be a Defense To Contributory Negligence in North Carolina

If someone is careless and causes an accident that results in injuries, you can bring a negligence action against them to recover compensation. One of the biggest issues in your case might be whether you also were careless at the time of the accident. Sometimes there are situations where both drivers in a car accident failed to drive with the appropriate level of care and skill. As seasoned Raleigh car accident lawyers, the attorneys at Maurer Law are available to discuss your car accident and whether you may also be found negligent. This could affect your right to recover compensation, so contact us as soon as possible to learn more.

A recent appellate opinion from neighboring South Carolina highlights how this principle can raise complex issues about liability. In the case, the plaintiff alleged that he was injured when he was struck by a vehicle driven by a police officer. The plaintiff was attempting to remove a small boat from the road that had fallen off the roof of his brother’s vehicle and landed partially in the roadway.

A question arose regarding the last clear chance doctrine, which applies in situations where both parties in an injury accident are deemed negligent. The doctrine asks the jury to consider which party had the last clear chance to avoid the accident. The defendant alleged that the plaintiff was negligent in running into the road to retrieve the boat, while the plaintiff alleged that the defendant had the last clear chance to avoid hitting the plaintiff with his vehicle.

The South Carolina Supreme Court concluded that it is important to consider whether the defendant had the last clear chance to avoid the accident. In situations where this is an issue, and both parties acted negligently, the jury should be instructed to consider whether the plaintiff was in danger and whether the defendant was aware of that. If the defendant was aware that the plaintiff was in danger, then the jury should evaluate whether the defendant could have avoided the injury when deciding whether to apportion some fault to the plaintiff if the defendant had acted with reasonable care and skill.

North Carolina follows a slightly different approach. It adopted the contributory negligence standard, which prevents a plaintiff from recovering compensation if they are even 1% at fault. But if the plaintiff can show that it is more likely than not that the defendant had the last clear chance to avoid the accident, then the plaintiff’s negligence is overlooked, and the defendant is liable for damages. The burden to prove that the defendant had the last clear chance is on the plaintiff, which means it is critical that you gather enough evidence to support your argument.

A Raleigh car accident lawyer can help you learn more about these legal concepts and whether they may be a factor in your claim for compensation. At Maurer Law, we provide a free consultation so that you can learn more about your options and how we may be able to help you. The best way to get started is to call our office now at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online to schedule your appointment.

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