Liability is a key concept in personal injury lawsuits. If someone is liable for an accident that caused you harm, they could be held financially responsible for your injuries.
Most accidents are preventable – they’re usually due to someone’s carelessness. Liability prevents injured parties from having to suffer financial consequences from someone else’s mistakes.
What Is Liability?
In general terms, liability is simply a financial obligation. In a personal injury context, liability is often used interchangeably with fault.
For example, if someone is at fault for a car accident, they can be held liable and made to pay for damages caused by the crash. However, there are some instances where you could be entitled to damages even without proof of fault.
How Do You Prove Liability in a Negligence Claim?
There are different legal theories to prove liability. Most personal injury cases are based on negligence.
Negligence is a legal theory that holds people liable when they harm someone due to careless or reckless conduct. Negligence is based on a “reasonable person” standard — people are generally required to exercise the same level of care as a reasonable person in similar circumstances.
If someone harmed you by failing to act reasonably, they should pay for the injuries they caused.
In order to prove negligence, you must prove:
- Duty: the defendant owed you a legal duty of care;
- Breach: the defendant failed to act reasonably (breached the duty of care);
- Causation: the defendant’s conduct resulted in your injuries; and
- Damages: you suffered actual damages as a result of the defendant’s action or inaction.
Proving liability in a negligence claim requires presenting evidence to prove each of the above elements. If you successfully prove negligence, then the defendant will be held liable for the damages claimed in your lawsuit.
What Is Strict Liability?
While most personal injury cases are based on negligence, sometimes a party can be liable (made to pay damages) even if they weren’t negligent. The theory of strict liability allows an injured party to recover compensation from a defendant without proving negligence or fault.
In general, strict liability in Maryland can be imposed for (1) abnormally dangerous activities; and (2) putting dangerous or defective products on the market.
Abnormally dangerous activities are activities that can cause harm even if the defendant takes precautions while performing them. For example, something might be abnormally dangerous if it involves using toxic materials or explosives in an area where they can cause harm to people or property.
In a product liability claim, a manufacturer could be held liable if the product they made was defective in some way and caused you harm. Defective products usually involve a design defect, manufacturing defect, or inadequate warnings. Product liability claims could include strict liability and negligence theories.
Liability in a Workplace Accident
If you’re injured in a workplace accident, you are likely entitled to receive benefits through your employer’s workers’ compensation policy. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, which means in most cases, you’ll receive benefits without having to prove that your employer was responsible for the accident. Likewise, you’ll still receive benefits even if you caused the accident (with a few exceptions).
However, in many cases, a third party is at least partially responsible for causing you to get hurt on the job. If that’s the case, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover damages in a third-party lawsuit. That means you’ll hold someone other than your employer liable for your damages.
Personal injury lawsuits have the potential for more comprehensive financial awards than workers’ compensation.
A workplace accident could mean that you’d have a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit.
Recovering Compensation When Someone Is Liable for Your Injuries
If you successfully prove liability in a personal injury lawsuit, you could recover compensation for economic and non-economic damages.
That means the negligent party could be required to pay for your:
- Doctor bills
- Lost wages
- Physical therapy
- Property damage
- Reduced earning capacity
- Emotional trauma
Liability can be difficult to prove. Many accidents are complicated and involve multiple parties, usually defended by aggressive insurance companies. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you get compensation for your injuries.
Contributory Fault Can Affect Liability
If you are partially at fault for your accident, that means you share liability. Insurance companies will want to minimize their payout, so they may try to shift the blame to you.
While most states have a law that reduces the amount of your award in proportion to your fault, Maryland is one of a few states that still follow a contributory negligence model. That means if you are even slightly responsible for the accident that caused your injuries, you are completely barred from receiving any compensation.
For example, if you are walking and get hit by a car, if the driver can prove that you didn’t look both ways before crossing the street or you were distracted by your cell phone, it’s possible you could be prevented from receiving any compensation. This can happen even if you were in a crosswalk and had the right of way. A personal injury attorney at William G. Kolodner Personal Injury Lawyers can advocate for you and fight back against unfair blame.