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last clear chance

n. a rule of law in determining responsibility for damages caused by negligence, which provides that if the plaintiff (the party suing for damages) is negligent, that will not matter if the defendant (the party being sued for damages caused by his/her negligence) could have still avoided the accident by reasonable care in the final moments (no matter how slight) before the accident. The theory is that although the plaintiff may have been negligent, his/her negligence no longer was the cause of the accident because the defendant could have prevented the accident. Most commonly applied to auto accidents, a typical case of last clear chance would be when one driver drifts over the center line, and this action was noted by an oncoming driver who proceeds without taking simple evasive action, crashes into the first driver and is thus liable for the injuries to the first driver who was over the line. In the few states which apply the strict "contributory negligence" rule which keeps a negligent plaintiff from recovering damages from a negligent defendant, "last clear chance" can save the careless plaintiff's lawsuit.

See also: comparative negligence  contributory negligence  negligence 

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The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications

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