Negligence Liability: Who is Responsible?
By FindLaw Staff | Legally reviewed by Garrett Monteagudo, Esq. | Last reviewed January 20, 2023
This article has been written and reviewed for legal accuracy, clarity, and style by FindLaw’s team of legal writers and attorneys and in accordance with our editorial standards.
The last updated date refers to the last time this article was reviewed by FindLaw or one of our contributing authors. We make every effort to keep our articles updated. For information regarding a specific legal issue affecting you, please contact an attorney in your area.
In some legal disputes that arise after an accident or injury, the concept of negligence is not limited to the action (or inaction) of an individual. Negligence liability may extend to people or entities that were not directly involved in the incident at issue. This concept is called vicarious liability. Under a variety of circumstances, with claims related to vicarious liability, an injured person is likelier to recover their damages from a financially secure and adequately insured party.
Vicarious Liability: Employers and Corporations
Small businesses, partnerships, organizations, and large corporations may all be held legally responsible in situations where they failed to properly ensure the safety of others. This is especially true in personal injury cases that stem from "slip and fall" incidents involving commercial businesses and corporate property owners. In addition, vicarious liability may also make an employer liable for job-related accidents involving their employees. This may happen even if the employer was not present at the time of the accident.
To illustrate the concept of vicarious liability, consider a hypothetical car accident scenario. Suppose that Don, an employee of Acme Office Supply, was involved in a car accident with Pat around 10:30 a.m. while making a delivery in a company van. Under vicarious liability theory, not only may Don be found at fault for causing the accident with Pat, but Don's employer, Acme Office Supply, could also be held legally responsible for Don's negligence in causing the car accident. This is because Acme is accountable for any carelessness on Don's part that might occur in the normal course of Don's employment duties. This includes the manner in which Don drives while making deliveries for the company. Here, Acme Office Supply is likelier to be financially secure and adequately insured than Don. As a result, Acme Office Supply is a "better" defendant, financially speaking, than Don for this type of lawsuit.
Strict Liability Cases
While the concept of negligence liability applies to most types of personal injury cases, certain kinds of injury claims will use a different rule of fault called "strict liability." Strict liability cases usually involve defective products or certain inherently dangerous activities. Examples of such activities are shipping toxic chemicals or keeping a dangerous animal on your property.
In situations involving an accident or injury, you usually must prove that someone acted negligently or carelessly. This negligent or careless conduct must also somehow cause or contribute to your injury. However, under the theory of strict liability, a consumer may recover damages from injuries caused by a defective product without proving negligence. All that must be proven is that the product or activity was unreasonably dangerous and that the plaintiff's injuries were the result of this dangerous product or activity. By holding manufacturers responsible for these types of injuries, manufacturers have a major incentive to ensure that their products are safe for the general public.
Have Questions About Negligence Liability? Speak with a Lawyer
Determining who's liable for a person's injuries is no easy task, which is why many lawyers specialize in this field. If you have questions about liability or injuries, it's a good idea to get in touch with a skilled personal injury attorney who can explain how negligence liability laws in your jurisdiction apply to your particular situation.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.