Understanding The Last Chance Doctrine As Used In Injury Cases

Personal injury law seems deceptively simple – the laws allow accident victims to claim compensation from liable parties. However, you will appreciate the complexity of these claims if you consider the nuisances that determine accident liability under different circumstances.

The judiciary understands these nuisances and uses different laws and doctrines to determine compensation under different circumstances. The last chance doctrine, whose review you can read below, is one such doctrine.

Meaning and Application

Some states use contributory negligence laws to deny compensation claims from injury victims who contributed to their accidents. The denial may apply even if the victim's contribution to the accident is minimal.

The last chance doctrine is an exception to the application of contributory negligence. The doctrine applies in cases where the defendant had the last opportunity to avoid the accident but still allowed the accident to occur. In such cases, states that use the last chance doctrine consider it unfair to deny the victim compensation.


As with other injury victims, you must prove a few elements to use the last chance doctrine. Specifically, you must prove that:

  • You were in a dangerous situation of your own doing, and you could not avoid the danger
  • The defendant created a subsequent dangerous situation that you could not avoid
  • The defendant knew about the danger and could have avoided it but did not avoid it
  • The defendant's failure to avoid the danger was the direct cause of your injuries

You must prove all of these things to win your compensation. For example, you cannot use the last chance doctrine if both you and the defendant could avoid the danger, but you didn't take the chance and let the accident happen.


Consider an auto collision involving motorists A and B. Motorist A makes an illegal turn because they are in a hurry and think the road is clear. Motorist B runs the red light and crashes into motorist A.

Both motorists are to blame in this accident and might not get auto accident compensation if the jurisdiction applies contributory negligence laws. However, motorist A may get compensation if they prove that motorist B saw them and had enough time to stop but failed to stop. The burden of proof lies with motorist A; they must prove all the doctrine's elements to get compensation.

Never underestimate the process of getting compensation after an accident. Consult a local law firm such as Craig P. Kenny & Associates to get in contact with a professional who can help you to understand the process and how to overcome its potential complications.

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