Three types of liability in personal injury cases

Three types of liability in personal injury cases
15 Jan 2021

It’s important to understand the three types of liability in personal injury cases.

A successful personal injury claim hinges on the ability to prove that another person, company or entity is liable for the injury.

What is liability?

Liability is analogous with responsibility and, in the legal world, there are three types of liability – intentional liability, strict liability and negligence.

What lies at the heart of legal liability is whether the act or omission that caused the injury was done on purpose or as a result of reckless or negligent behaviour.

What is intentional liability?

Intentional liability is when one party deliberately hurts another, knowing full well his or her actions are wrong. Sexual abuse, assault and battery, wrongful arrest, slander and fraud are typical examples of cases that can lead to intentional liability claims.

This type of injury usually results in a civil personal injury claim and criminal charges.

Example of intentional liability

Nikki enters a clothing store wearing a hoodie and backpack. After browsing through the aisles, she leaves without making a purchase.

Due to the backpack and her clothing, the on-duty security guard incorrectly profiles Nikki as a shop lifter. He arrests her as she exits the store without providing proof of her alleged wrongdoing.

In this scenario, Nikki is entitled to sue for damages resulting from wrongful arrest and emotional distress.

What is strict liability?

Strict liability is when an individual or company has an absolute duty to act safely and breaches that duty.

In this type of liability, the injured party only has to prove the injury and that an act or omission by another person or company caused that injury. In strict liability claims, the question of fault, negligence or intention is inconsequential.

Personal injury claims resulting from defective products and dog bite attacks, for example, are covered by the principle of strict liability.

Example of strict liability

Kathy is walking her dog in the park. The dog is well trained and on a leash. A young boy on roller skates approaches the dog from behind. As the boy is passing by, the dog gets a fright and bites the boy on the leg, breaking the skin.

In South Africa, dog owners are strictly liable for the actions of their animals. Despite the fact that Kathy is behaving responsibly and the dog has never shown signs of aggression prior to the incident, the boy’s parents are entitled to sue Kathy for damages.

What is negligence?

Negligence is when an individual fails to act as any other reasonable person would in similar circumstances.

All adults have an obligation to behave in such a way that doesn’t pose a risk to others. When that obligation is breached, the individual is acting in a negligent manner.

Negligence is often the cause of road accidents, medical malpractice and slip-and-trip incidents. It’s the most prevalent type of personal injury liability in South Africa.

Example of negligence

Natalie is driving along the main road and realises she has missed her turn off. Instead of progressing to the next off ramp, she does a U-turn on a blind corner.

A car travelling in the opposite direction hits Natalie’s car. The driver is injured and the car seriously damaged.

As Natalie failed to act as any other reasonable and responsible driver would, the injured driver is well within his or her rights to claim compensation.

What we offer at DSC Attorneys

At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in personal injury claims and our medico-legal team has extensive experience in handling medical malpractice claims.

We can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve. We work on a no win, no fee basis.

Contact us at DSC Attorneys for the very best legal support and representation.

See also:

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
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