car accident lawyer Baltimore

The Maryland Doctrine of Last Clear Chance Law Explained

In Maryland, if a plaintiff is even slightly responsible for an accident, they cannot recover any damages due to the principle of contributory negligence. However, there is a notable exception to this law called the last clear chance doctrine.

If an accident occurs, the last clear chance doctrine allows the plaintiff to recover damages even if they were partially at fault. However, it places the burden on the defendant to prove that they had no reasonable opportunity to prevent the harm. This exception is narrow, but it enables an individual to receive compensation that they might have otherwise been denied.

Call Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 for a free assessment of your case with our Maryland personal injury lawyers.

Understanding Maryland’s Last Clear Chance Doctrine

The State of Maryland has incorporated the last clear chance doctrine into its legal system. This doctrine can potentially offer relief to plaintiffs who are considered partially responsible for their injuries. It applies in situations where the victim of an accident has put themselves in harm’s way through their own negligence, but the defendant had a chance to prevent the accident and failed to.

The basis of this principle is that it is not acceptable to harm someone simply because they were careless if you had the opportunity to prevent the harm. Therefore, if a defendant knows or should know that what they’re doing will hurt someone, and the victim cannot avoid the injury, then the defendant is deemed to have the last clear chance to prevent the harm. This defendant is legally required to take that last clear chance, or else they are solely responsible for the accident.

In the event that a pedestrian attempts to cross the street without the right of way and is struck by a car, the pedestrian is normally considered at least partially responsible for their injuries. But recall that in Maryland, a partially at-fault victim loses their case.  So, if it can be proven that the driver had enough time to react and avoid the collision but failed to do so, the defendant might be held solely accountable for the accident even if the plaintiff was also at fault for running across the street.

It should be noted that this is a complex legal principle that is highly dependent on the specific circumstances of the case in question, so you should contact a Maryland personal injury lawyer for help.

The Fresh Opportunity Requirement in Maryland’s Last Clear Chance Doctrine

If both parties actively share fault at the time of the accident, the last clear chance rule does not apply. This means the defendant must have had a chance to prevent the injury after the plaintiff’s negligent action occurred. Essentially, the doctrine requires initial negligence from both parties, followed by a second, “fresh opportunity” for the defendant to prevent the accident. If the defendant is continuously negligent, the rule does not apply.

According to this principle, a plaintiff who was also negligent can still receive compensation if they were in danger and the defendant had a fresh opportunity to prevent harm but did not take it, knowing it was there.

How Is Fault Ultimately Determined in a Maryland Lawsuit?

In Maryland, the doctrine of “pure” contributory negligence is applied, which can be harsh on plaintiffs and lead to unfair outcomes. This principle is defined as conduct on the part of the plaintiff that did not meet the necessary standard for their protection and contributed to the negligence of the defendant. If it is determined that the plaintiff did not exercise the required level of care, no matter how small, they will not be able to recover. Essentially, the defendant’s conduct is legally irrelevant unless they are solely at fault.

In cases where a plaintiff’s claim is valued at $100,000, and the jury finds both parties equally at fault, the plaintiff would not receive any compensation. Similarly, if the plaintiff is determined to be even 10% at fault, they would still not receive anything. This means that even if the Plaintiff is only found to be 1% responsible for their injuries, they would be unable to recover damages from a party considered 99% at fault by the jury.

This system, unfortunately, places an unfair burden on the plaintiff, who must prove that they did not contribute to the incident, effectively protecting at-fault parties from consequences for their actions. Such outcomes are unjust and punitive to plaintiffs.

What Other Elements Must I Prove to Win My Maryland Lawsuit?

If someone is injured due to someone else’s carelessness, they might be able to recover under the legal theory of negligence. In order to prove negligence, it must be shown that the negligent party acted carelessly, given the situation. There are four elements that must be established to recover for injuries caused by negligence. However, even if negligence is proven, the defending party might still have a defense to reduce the amount of damages they must pay.


The concept of responsibility between individuals entails a duty that one person owes to another. This duty typically involves the exercise of reasonable care or the level of caution and attention that an ordinary and prudent person would exhibit in similar circumstances. It is a fundamental expectation that people should conduct themselves in a manner that takes into account the impact of their actions on others and strives to avoid causing harm or damage. This sense of responsibility is essential for fostering a safe and harmonious society where individuals can coexist and interact with confidence and trust.


When someone’s duty of care is not met, it results in a breach. To prove breach in a Maryland lawsuit, it is necessary to show that the defendant did not meet the required standard of care. This usually involves demonstrating that their actions or lack thereof were unreasonable given the circumstances.


In order for one party to be held legally responsible for causing injury to another, it must be established that their breach of duty was the direct cause of the harm suffered. The legal principle of causation is based on the idea that if it were not for the actions of the responsible party, the injury would not have occurred. This test is used to determine accountability and ensure that those who cause harm are held accountable for their actions.


Typically, a situation that warrants attention involves some form of harm that has been inflicted. The harm itself can manifest in a range of ways, from physical damage to one’s property to emotional suffering or even financial losses in the form of lost wages.

Our Maryland Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help

For a free case review with our Baltimore personal injury attorneys, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.