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Written by: Steven R. Clawson
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In this article I want to explain the meaning of a legal term that many have heard but not everyone fully understands. That term is liability. So let’s get right into discussing the question, what is liability?

The reason it’s so important to understand this concept is that liability really is the core of an injury case. In order to get compensated for your injury someone has to have liability. If you don’t know what liability is, how can you know who has it, or in other words, how can you know who is liable? If you don’t know who’s liable, or if no one else has liability then you’re basically up a creek and will not get any money for your injuries.

So let’s take a close look at this concept by breaking it down into three main points.

Liability Defined

First off let’s define liability. Simply put liability is legal responsibility. To be held liable for something is to be held legally responsible for it. So to put it in terms of your injury case the person who is legally responsible for causing your injury is liable, or legally responsible. But legally responsible for what exactly? To be liable in a civil case, which is what an injury case is, means that someone is responsible to pay money. Specifically, the party that is liable, whether it’s an individual, a business, or the government, has to pay for the injured person’s damages.

How Does Someone Become Liable?

The second point is really the following question: how does someone become liable in a civil case? The quick answer is that they commit a tort. Yes, I know that’s a funny little word, but what it is is a civil wrong. Someone commits a tort when they break a rule that our society has set up in order to protect people from harm. Some common examples of torts are assault, battery, negligence, and wrongful death. The most common tort that leads to liability in injury cases is negligence. So more often than not when you’re looking to see who’s liable for your injuries you going to be looking for the person who was negligent. And it might not necessarily be a person, it could be a business or governmental entity as well.

Civil Liability vs. Criminal Liability

Next I want to distinguish between civil liability and criminal liability. Somebody can go out and do something that causes them to become liable both civilly and criminally but they are two different things. Let’s consider the example of a drunk driver who runs a red light and t-bones another car, injuring the driver of that other car. That drunk driver can be held legally responsible or liable in both the civil case and in a criminal case. If someone is criminally liable it usually means they’re looking at jail time, a stiff fine, or both. When someone is civilly liable they’re only looking at having to pay money to another individual. Now someone can go out and do something that only results in civil liability and not criminal. That is usually the case in most injury cases. Let’s stick with car accidents for our example here. Someone who is not paying attention and accidentally rear ends you at a stoplight can be held civilly liable for the damages you suffer, but they will not be held criminally liable and won’t be charged with a crime.

So to recap, liability means to be held legally responsible for one’s actions. In a civil case, if somebody is held liable for a tort they committed such as negligence, they may have to pay money to the person they harmed. The reason it is important to understand this concept is that if you don’t know who is liable in your injury case, then you don’t know who to pursue for the compensation you are entitled to.

I hope you learned something from this article. If you did and you’d like to learn more to help you with your injury claim feel free to download our free e-book.

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