Earlier this month, an appellate court in Virginia issued a written opinion in a case involving a pedestrian who was struck and killed by a passing train. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the “last clear chance doctrine” as it applies in that jurisdiction. Ultimately, the court held that the plaintiff’s complaint alleged facts that, if true, would allow the jury to determine that the defendant railroad operator had the opportunity to avoid the collision but failed to do so. As a result, the court permitted the plaintiff’s case to proceed toward trial.
While the determination of whether a party is able to avoid an accident is relevant in Florida personal injury cases, the last clear chance doctrine is not something that would come up under Florida law. This is because Florida applies a far less restrictive doctrine when determining which plaintiffs are entitled to recover damages.
Comparative Fault Versus Contributory Negligence
The jurisdiction where this case arose, Virginia, is a contributory negligence state. Under the doctrine of contributory negligence, an accident victim who is at all at fault for the accident resulting in their injuries is not entitled to recover from any other defendants that may have also contributed to the accident. This very strict rule prohibits plaintiffs from recovering in a significant amount of personal injury cases. The last clear chance doctrine acts as a sort of exception to the application of the contributory negligence rule, and it allows negligent accident victims to recover in some circumstances in which the defendant could have avoided the accident.