Liability is a crucial element of a personal injury case. You can only recover compensation from parties who are liable for your damages. Liability creates a legally enforceable claim against another party’s assets.
Before a party can be held financially liable for damages, you must prove the legal elements required for the standard of liability. There are types of liability that are used in personal injury cases.
General Negligence Claims
A person is negligent when their conduct falls short of what a reasonable person would have done in a similar situation. Negligence is the basis for most personal injury claims. You have the burden of proving all of the legal elements of a negligence claim before you can hold a party financially liable for your damages.
The legal requirements for a negligence claim are:
- The party owed you a duty of care
- The party failed to act with reasonable care, thereby breaching the duty of care
- The breach of care was the direct and proximate cause of your injuries
- You incurred damages because of the party’s breach of duty
The above legal elements create a chain of causation that leads to general liability. For example, suppose a commercial property owner fails to fix a broken step. A customer trips and falls on the broken step. As a result of the fall, the customer breaks his leg. In addition, the customer incurs medical bills and lost wages because of the injury.
The owner owed a duty of care to customers to maintain the premises in a safe condition. The owner breached the duty of care by failing to fix the step or provide a warning of the danger. Therefore, the property owner is liable for damages under a premises liability claim; the owner’s breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of the customer’s injury and damages.
Negligence Per Se
You have the burden of providing evidence that convinces a jury that the other party’s conduct caused your injury. However, negligence per se shifts the burden of proof to the defendant.
For negligence per se to apply, the defendant must have violated a safety law during the breach of duty. The crime must carry penalties, and the law must have been enacted to protect the general public interest.
If the above is true, there is a presumption that the defendant caused your injury. The defendant would need to prove that your injury was not the result of the defendant’s breach of duty to avoid financial liability for your damages.
Some claims involve strict liability for damages. In these cases, you do not need to prove intent or negligence to hold the party liable for damages. However, you need to prove that the party’s conduct resulted in your injuries.
Cases in which strict liability generally applies include:
- Accidents or injuries involving wild animals
- Dog bite cases
- Product liability cases
- Cases involving abnormally dangerous activities
Strict liability could also apply in some criminal cases where the defendant intentionally acted to harm the plaintiff.
Under vicarious liability, business owners and employers can be held liable for damages caused by their employees. Vicarious liability only applies in situations in which a third party had a supervisory role over the party who caused your damages.
To hold an employer vicariously liable for damages caused by an employee, the employee must have been acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident. An example would be a delivery truck driver causing an accident while making deliveries or a waiter spilling hot coffee on a customer.
Who is Responsible for Payment of a Personal Injury Claim?
The party who caused the injury is generally liable for paying the claim. However, the party may have liability protection in the form of auto insurance, homeowners insurance, or another form of liability insurance.
Liability insurance covers the damages caused by the insured party. The insurance policy must cover the incident, and you must prove liability before the insurance company pays the claim.
An insurance company would only be liable for damages up to the policy limit. After that, you would need to pursue a judgment claim against the at-fault party.
What Damages Can I Receive for a Personal Injury Claim?
Once you prove liability, you can recover compensation for damages, including:
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Permanent impairments
- Reduced earning potential
- Loss of enjoyment of life
The value of a personal injury case depends on your financial losses, the severity of your injuries, and other factors. If you are partially to blame for the cause of your injury, your compensation could be reduced under comparative fault laws. One of our personal injury lawyers in St. Louis can help you document your damages and gather evidence to prove liability.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Missouri Personal Injury Lawyers
The party who caused your injury may be liable for your damages. Find out what compensation you could receive and how to proceed with an injury claim. Contact our law firm to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Kansas City personal injury attorneys.