What is Liability?

Liability is one of the most significant words in the field of law. It means legal responsibility for one’s actions or omissions. If a person or entity fails to fulfill that responsibility, they have left themselves vulnerable to a lawsuit for the resulting damages or, as in a violation of statute or breach of contract, a court order to perform.

To win such a lawsuit, the plaintiff (suing party), must prove the legal liability of the defendant if the plaintiff’s actions are shown to be true. Proof requires evidence of the duty to act, failure to fulfill that duty, and the correlation of that failure to some injury or harm to the plaintiff.

How Liability is Determined?

Most accidents happen because someone was negligent; however, proving that someone was careless or negligent and therefore liable for an accident or injury can be complicated. Essentially, if one person involved in an accident was more careless than another, that person must pay for at least a portion of the damages suffered by the more careful person.

This is the primary rule of thumb for determining liability; however, one or more of the following may also apply;

  • If the injured person was someplace he or she was not supposed to be, or someplace he or she should have anticipated the type of activity that caused the accident, the person who caused the accident might not be liable because that person had no responsibility to the injured person
  • If the injured person was careless as well, compensation may be reduced to the degree that the carelessness contributed to the accident. This is known as comparative negligence
  • If a negligent person causes an accident while employed by someone else, the employer may be liable for the accident as well
  • If an accident occurs on property that is dangerous because it is improperly maintained, a property owner is liable for being careless in maintaining the property, even if he or she did not create the hazardous condition
  • If a defective product causes an accident, the manufacturer and the seller of the product are both liable regardless of whether the injured person knows which one was careless in creating or allowing the defect
  • When more than one person is responsible, most states’ law provides that any one of the careless parties is responsible for fully compensating you