To seek compensation after being injured in an accident caused by someone else, you must prove that the other person (or entity) is liable. That means establishing that the party was at fault and is responsible for covering expenses and losses you suffered.
You can draw on one of three legal theories when demonstrating liability: negligence, strict liability, and intentional wrong. The principle upon which you base your personal injury claim depends on the conduct leading to your accident and injury.
Proving liability is complex. You must gather and analyze evidence and present a compelling case to insurance companies, a judge, or a jury. When you are recovering from the physical and emotional harm caused by your accident, taking care of the details of your case can be difficult. That is why it is in your best interest to have a personal injury lawyer help.
What Is Liability?
Liability means establishing that a person or company is responsible for their conduct or misconduct. In other words, the party you are bringing a claim against was expected to act in a certain way given the circumstances. They failed to do so and are deemed to have caused the accident that led to your injuries.
Several situations exist in which a person or entity can be liable for the harm they caused, which include, but are not limited to:
When a person is legally liable for your injuries, they owe you financial recovery for accident-related damages.
Damages include expenses and losses you suffered, such as:
- Medical costs,
- Lost wages,
- Emotional distress, and/or
- Mental anguish.
What Are the Liability Principles in a Personal Injury Case?
Your claim for compensation can be based on a certain theory of liability. The principle you pursue is tied to the actions or inactions leading to your accident.
Many personal injury cases are based on the theory of negligence.
It requires proving the following four elements:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care,
- They breached that duty of care,
- Their breach was the proximate cause of your accident, and
- You sustained damages because of the accident.
Generally, determining liability based on negligence means applying the “reasonable person” standard. Under the standard, the decision-maker asks, “What would a reasonable person have done in a similar situation? Did the at-fault party act below what was expected or customary?”
Various parties can be liable under the negligence principle, such as property owners and motor vehicle drivers.
Some personal injury cases can be premised on negligence per se standards. Negligence per se means that the person is presumed negligent because their conduct violated a law. For instance, a driver who was speeding and caused an accident may automatically be deemed negligent because they broke a statute under the traffic code.
When a case is brought under the theory of negligence per se, the burden shifts to the defendant to overcome the presumption.
Strict liability is a legal theory in product liability or dog bite cases. It provides that you do not have to prove that the other person’s or entity’s negligence or intent led to your accident. You must, however, establish that the other party is legally responsible.
For instance, suppose you were injured by a defective product. You do not need to show that the manufacturer was negligent in designing or constructing the item, nor that the company meant to release a malfunctioning product. If you can establish that the defect caused your injuries, the manufacturer may owe you financial recovery.
Intentional wrongs involve circumstances where a person purposely engaged in conduct to hurt you.
Typically, these are criminal matters such as:
- Sexual assault,
- Manslaughter, or
While the State pursues criminal charges against the individual to punish them, you may pursue civil action to recover compensation from the at-fault party.
Proving Fault for an Accident
To establish that someone is liable for damages you sustained, you must provide evidence to support your claims.
Evidence can include things such as:
- Witness accounts,
- Pictures and videos,
- Investigating officer’s report, and
- Medical records.
You must also present the evidence in a way that tells your side of the story compellingly.
At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our Los Angeles attorneys can determine what legal theory to base your personal injury claim on and develop a strategy for you.
To schedule a consultation, please contact us at (800) 462-7160.