Why Liability Is Important In Injury Law

A major goal for every personal injury lawyer is to prove the liability of the defendant. Notably, the legal concept of liability isn't always quite the same as the common notion of responsibility. Claimants and plaintiffs should understand what that distinction is about, why liability is so important, and how the different kinds of liability work.

Liability vs. Responsibility

The law distinguishes these two seemingly similar concepts. While all liable people are responsible in the eyes of the law, not all responsible people are liable. A central concept in liability is the duty of care. This means the law recognizes that a specific person or organization had a duty to prevent harm from coming to the injured party. Likewise, they must have failed through some action or inaction that was within their control.

Suppose someone punches another person hard enough to put them in the hospital. The deliverer of the punch is certainly responsible for the recipient's injuries. However, they may not be liable if the punch was an appropriate act of self-defense.

Why Liability Matters

Compensation in nearly all cases comes from how liable the defendant is. Whether an insurer is settling a claim or a jury is making a judgment, somebody will have to answer whether the defendant is liable and how liable they are for what happened. Bear in mind that a plaintiff and a defendant may share liability. If a painter left a bucket along a walkway without putting up signs or tape to keep people out, they'd likely bear most of the liability if someone stepped in the bucket and fell. However, a victim who was recklessly running through the area at the time may also bear a bit of the liability.

Understanding liability matters because, in general, most cases award less money if the plaintiff contributed to the incident through their negligence. For example, maybe the running person was deemed 10% responsible. Consequently, they'd only get 90% of the compensation owed to them.

Kinds of Liability

In terms of compensation, two kinds of liability matter. Negligence works largely as described in the previous section. If a defendant does something wrong, they then pay a percentage of compensation relative to their liability. However, there's a second type of liability known as strict liability. In these cases, the defendant pays everything no matter how much the victim contributed to the outcome. These usually involve known dangerous activities, like owning exotic animals or dealing with chemicals or biological agents. If successful, a personal injury attorney can expect to recover 100% of the total value of the claim in these cases.

For more information, contact a personal injury lawyer.