In some states, like North Carolina, the rule of contributory negligence will prevent you from collecting damages after an injury if the jury decides that you're even 1% at fault for the accident. However, something called the "last clear chance rule" can still change the outcome of your case. Here's how it works:
What is the "last clear chance" rule?
If you're involved in an accident, the plaintiff will often argue that you were at least partially to blame for the accident by putting yourself in danger. You, in turn, can argue that even if you were negligent and exposed yourself to danger, it was the defendant who had the last clear chance to avoid the accident once the series of events got started. People have an inherent duty to avoid an accident when they clearly can.
In order to successfully argue the rule, you have to prove several things to the satisfaction of the jury:
- You placed yourself in some form of danger.
- Once you were in danger, you couldn't physically get yourself back out of it.
- The defendant knew that you were in danger and couldn't get out of it on your own.
- The defendant had the last clear chance to take action that would have stopped the accident from happening.
- The defendant didn't take that action.
What is an example of the "last clear chance" rule in action?
Imagine that you are walking home at night and you have to cross a street that gets very busy at times. The nearest crosswalk is quite out of your way, but there's a sudden break in the traffic where you're at right now. You decide to risk it and jaywalk across the street. Unfortunately, your wallet falls out of your pocket on the yellow line between the lanes and you have to go back out into the street to grab it. Just as you pick it up, you realize that traffic has increased again. You're blinded by headlights and effectively trapped in the middle of the street by cars coming from both directions. The next thing you know, you've been hit by a car.
If the driver of the car that hit you could clearly see you in his or her headlights and had time to stop the car, he or she had an obligation to do so. By stopping and letting you retreat to the curb for safety, the whole accident would have been prevented. Because you were trapped and unable to get yourself out of the situation, the "last clear chance" to avoid the accident rested with the driver of the car. Your original negligence in being in the situation in the first place no longer matters.
Many people think that because they were partially at fault for an accident that they can't possibly win their case. Don't assume that's your situation. Sit down with a personal injury lawyer from a website like http://www.noblelegalservices.com and discuss the facts of your case before you decide.