What Is Liability?

Liability is the legal responsibility for a damage or injury. The liable person may be required to pay financial compensation to the injured party for medical bills, lost wages, or other damages.

Whether a person is liable for your injuries will depend on many factors. They may agree to pay a settlement, or they may decide to litigate the case before a jury. In either case, you’ll need proof and a solid legal basis for a finding of liability.

If another person caused your injuries, you should discuss the issue of liability with a personal injury lawyer.

Standards of Liability

There are three common standards of liability used in personal injury cases:

  • Negligence
  • Intentional torts
  • Strict liability

You’ll need to know which legal standard applies to your case. This will allow you to gather the necessary evidence and make the correct legal arguments.


Negligence is the most common legal standard in personal injury cases. Negligence occurs when a person breaches their duty to act as a reasonable person under the circumstances and causes injury to another person.

Negligence is generally the standard in the following types of injury cases:

To win a negligence case, you don’t need to show that the other party intended to cause your injury. You must only show that they failed to act reasonably and then caused your injuries.

For example, a distracted driver who rear-ends your vehicle has failed to act as a reasonable person should while driving. When they cause damage to your vehicle and physical injuries to you and your passengers, they have committed negligence.

Sometimes specialized negligence standards apply. Medical malpractice cases follow a negligence standard, but they measure a medical professional’s conduct against what a reasonably prudent medical professional should have done under the circumstances.

Comparative negligence laws can also impact liability. In Pennsylvania, your own negligence doesn’t bar recovery as long as it was not greater than the defendant’s negligence. However, your financial recovery may be reduced based on your comparative negligence.

Intentional Torts

Intentional torts occur when someone intends to cause you harm. Some common intentional torts include:

  • Assault
  • Battery
  • Trespass
  • Theft

If you get into a dispute with your neighbor and they hit you, thee could be found liable for your injuries for committing the tort of battery. To receive compensation, you would need to file a personal injury lawsuit. This proceeding would be separate from any criminal charges brought against the neighbor.

Strict Liability

A strict liability standard is only applied in limited circumstances. Certain activities, such as blasting, are considered abnormally dangerous. Strict liability is placed on those who perform these activities because of the high risk of injury.

When strict liability applies, there is no requirement to show that the defendant failed to act reasonably. The fact that strict liability applies and that the defendant’s conduct caused injury to another person is sufficient for a finding of legal liability.

Defective products that cause injuries to consumers may also follow a strict liability standard. Pennsylvania law also uses strict liability for dog bite injuries but limits this standard to damage for the injured person’s medical bills.

Types of Damages

Once a person is found liable for your injuries, they may be required to pay several types of monetary damages. These damages are generally categorized as economic damages or non-economic damages.

The liable person can agree to pay compensation in a settlement. If they refuse to settle, they may be required to pay damages by a court.

Economic Damages

Economic damages include your out-of-pocket expenses and losses after an accident. Some common economic damages include the following:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Out-of-pocket expenses such as childcare or transportation to medical appointments
  • Prescription drugs
  • Medical equipment
  • Property damage

You should carefully track all of your expenses after an accident. The insurance company you file a claim with may ask for proof of the amount of these expenses. They may also ask for documentation showing that the expenses are necessary and related to your injuries.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages compensate you for non-monetary losses. It can be difficult to quantify the cost of being in pain for months on end or losing the companionship of a loved one. A variety of formulas can be used to determine what a reasonable amount of non-economic damages are in a given case.

The following are some common types of non-economic damages:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Loss of consortium or companionship

Punitive damages may also be awarded, but only in limited circumstances. These damages are reserved for cases where a person’s willful and malicious conduct caused another person’s injuries.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer

If someone is liable for your injuries, you should talk to a personal injury attorney about your case. You need to make sure you take the proper actions to seek compensation from the liable party. Schedule a free consultation to find out what type of damages you could claim in a personal injury lawsuit.