Liability is a term that is used frequently in the field of law. Quite simply, liability means legal responsibility for one’s actions.
Failure to meet this responsibility leaves a person open to a liability lawsuit for any resulting damages. In order to win a lawsuit, the claimant must prove that the accused party is liable. This requires evidence that the accused owed the claimant a duty of care, that this duty was not met and that this failure to provide a duty of care was the cause of the injury or harm.
Liability also applies to alleged criminal acts, in which the defendant may be responsible for his/her acts, which constitute a crime, thus making him/her subject to conviction and punishment. Legal liability concerns criminal law and civil law. It can arise from areas of law such as contracts, torts, taxes, or fines.
If you are seeking to pursue a liability lawsuit case, call The Law Place today for a free consultation on (941)444-4444.
What Makes Someone Liable
A person is liable if they are found to be negligent. And in order to prove liability, you must show evidence of this negligence.
Proving negligence is required in most claims, and a claimant must prove four things in order to win their case; duty, breach, causation, and damages;
- Duty – In a liability lawsuit case, it must be proven that the defendant owed a legal duty of care. In some circumstances, the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant might create a legal duty; for instance, a doctor owes a patient a legal duty to provide him or her with competent medical care. Or, the defendant may owe the plaintiff a legal duty to act with reasonable care in a certain situation, for example, when a driver is expected to drive safely and with a certain level of due care for other drivers and passengers on the road.
- Breach of duty – The court will then look to see whether the defendant breached this duty by doing (or not doing something) that a “reasonably prudent person” would do under similar circumstances. The term “reasonably prudent person” refers to a legal standard that represents how the average person would responsibly act in a certain situation.
- Causation – The plaintiff must then show that the defendant’s negligence was actually responsible for his or her injury. Someone may be acting negligently, but the plaintiff can only recover damages if this negligence somehow causes the injury. A court will also look at whether the defendant could reasonably have foreseen that his or her actions might cause an injury. If the defendant’s actions somehow caused an accident due to a random, unexpected act of nature, the injury would most likely be deemed unforeseeable, and the defendant may not be found to be responsible.
- Damages – A court will then consider if they are able to compensate the plaintiff for his or her injury, usually through monetary compensation for expenses such as medical care or property repair.
What Best Describes Civil Liberty?
If you intentionally or even mistakenly injure someone or damage someone’s property, you could end up being found responsible for paying for the other person’s losses. This is known as civil liability.
A civil action is a lawsuit filed by a private person against another private person. Usually, these lawsuits seek monetary damages for injury or loss that the party suing alleges the other party caused. A defendant who loses in a civil action does not face the risk of prison or fines. A common example would be when individual slips on a wet floor in a restaurant where there were no wet floor signs, the restaurant owners would be ordered to pay monetary compensation to cover medical bills and other losses suffered by the injured party.
By contrast, a criminal action is a prosecution by the government of an individual for violating a provision of the criminal code. The defendant may face prison time, a fine, or other terms.
Civil actions are categorized according to the type of injury or damage involved. They include “torts” (a French word that simply means “wrong,” such as personal injury and wrongful death), contract disputes, product liability claims, and business disputes.
Lowering the Burden of Proof
A plaintiff in a civil lawsuit is only required to prove their case by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which means just enough evidence to just tip the balance in favor of the plaintiff. A massive contrast when you compare it with criminal cases where a defendant can only be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. So, things are much simpler in a civil action, because if the plaintiff proves that it is more likely than not that the defendant was responsible for his or her injuries or loss, they win.
Breach of Contract
Civil lawsuits filed in the U.S. very often arise out of disputes between parties to a contract. The plaintiff in such actions alleges that the defendant has failed to comply with some of the terms of a contract. For example, disputes between landlords and tenants often involve a question of who breached the lease.
Some civil wrongs result from intentionally deceiving acts by defendants, such as intentional misrepresentation (fraud), defamation, and employment discrimination. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant purposely engaged in certain conduct. They may offer evidence that the defendant had spread false rumors, for example, that the plaintiff had engaged in a crime, even whilst knowing that the rumors were false. There may be cases where the defendant did not knowingly engage in such conduct or may have very convincing lawyers on their side who can argue that this was the case.
Not all civil actions involve intentional conduct by the defendant. Plaintiffs in many civil cases allege that the defendant acted negligently and that this negligence caused their injuries or loss. In such cases, the plaintiff need not show any intent at all on the part of the defendant. But, the plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty to exercise due care in taking the action he took that injured the plaintiff and that he failed to take such care. An example of this could be cases of premises liability, where a plaintiff has been invited into the defendant’s property when said property is unsafe, and this has resulted in personal injury. The defendant could be shown to be negligent for not completing necessary maintenance and failing to comply with health and safety regulations.
Product liability lawsuits involving defective products are often subject to a strict liability standard. In such cases, a manufacturer places a product in the market knowing that consumers will use it “without inspection for defects” and is held strictly liable for any injuries that result from defects in the product. This means that the injured party doesn’t need to show carelessness, let alone an intent to cause injury. The fact that a product is defective is enough to show that a manufacturer or business should be held responsible.
Even if a defendant is not engaged in any wrongdoing, if they are aware of it and have chosen to ignore it, they can be held liable according to state laws. This is called vicarious liability.
For example, under federal law, an employer may be held vicariously liable for an employee’s sexual harassment of another employee if the employer knew about the harassment and failed to address it. Such liability is based on a theory that certain parties such as employers and parents have authority over, and a duty to control, certain other parties such as subordinates or children.
Damages in Civil Liability Lawsuit Cases
The only penalty a defendant in a civil action faces is financial. The plaintiff has to prove their losses often through expert witnesses such as economists and psychological experts.
An award in a civil action may include:
- Reimbursement of monies lost due to the defendant’s actions.
- Compensation for damage to property.
- Reimbursement of monies due to the defendant’s breach of a contract.
- Reimbursement of medical expenses for injuries caused.
- Compensation for pain and suffering (including emotional distress).
Many businesses will have liability insurance, and this is where a lawyer would seek damages. Liability insurance would cover a defendant in the vast majority of lawsuit cases, even when they are at fault.
Call The Law Place Today
Knowing the ins and outs of liability lawsuits can help to determine whether you have a liability case. If you believe you have suffered due to another person’s negligence, where this be an individual or a business, consider speaking with an attorney from The Law Place to help you to better understand your legal options.
If you are a business who would like free advice with regards to your liability insurance or a claim that has been made against you, one of our attorneys can help.
Our experienced team of lawyers has over 75 years of combined experience in all areas of law, so call us today for a free consultation on (941)444-4444.