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Who is Liable in a Personal Injury Case?

By Eric Giordano posted 11-15-2019 12:39 PM


Liability is at the center of a personal injury case. What does liability mean, how is it determined and what happens if you are at fault? Determining fault is a key issue because the individual who is at fault is responsible for paying compensation to the injured party. This may happen via a negotiated settlement or a court order. 

What is liability?

The law assumes that individuals are responsible for their actions. Individuals have a duty not to cause injury to others. If an individual fails in this duty and someone else is injured as a direct result of this, then he or she is liable for the consequences of that failure. If there is no injury or loss, there are no grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. 

Who determines liability?

Most parties carry insurance that comes into play when they are involved in an accident. This means that insurance companies are the ones who have to conduct an investigation to determine liability before they pay out any damages. In some cases, admission of responsibility by one party is enough to establish liability. ‘

If the involved parties are unable to agree on liability, a personal injury lawsuit may be filed. If there is any doubt about liability, hiring a personal injury lawyer is advisable. This is the best way to ensure that someone receives fair representation. A civil court jury will have a say on who is at fault, hearing evidence from all parties before making a decision. 

How negligence works when proving fault

If there is negligence, it may be accidental or deliberate but it is basically the failure to perform an action reasonably expected on the part of another person. 

Negligence can’t be defended, so proving negligence is all that’s necessary to establish fault. This is because the law assumes that a reasonable person would not be negligent. 

Fault is decided by examining evidence, such as photos taken at the accident scene, accounts of an accident given by witnesses or the police accident report. 

In a civil lawsuit, it is not necessary to have the same level of proof as required in a criminal case. It only requires a weight of evidence to support fault. If a jury finds that some evidence is more believable than other evidence, they can accept it. 

What happens when more than one person is at fault?

In accidental injury cases, it is quite common for more than one person to be at fault. An example could be a car suffering a blowout as a result of striking a pothole and the driver losing control and colliding with another vehicle. The highway department that did not repair the pothole is arguably also responsible for the accident.

When multiple parties are at fault, a jury will usually decide on the total damages and then assign responsibility based on how much each party contributed to the accident. 

What happens when an accident is my fault?

The time immediately following an accident is stressful and PTSD is common in cases such as a major car accident. At such times it is often possible to say things that might not really be an accurate account of what happened. It is always best to talk with an attorney before discussing your accident with anyone else. 

An attorney may be able to demonstrate that factors not obvious at the time were involved in the accident and make sure statements made to police aren’t misinterpreted. 

If you are accused of negligence, an experienced personal accident lawyer will know what defenses to amount. Defenses like comparative fault or assumption of risk may reduce your liability or perhaps even eliminate it. 

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