What Is Strict Liability Law?

What Is Strict Liability Law?

When a person inflicts injury or causes damage, strict liability holds that person responsible even if they did not act negligently. It applies to animal bites (in some states), manufacturing defects (product liability), and hazardous activities.

If your personal injury case involves strict liability, you will need an experienced personal injury attorney to handle it.

Strict Liability Law in Personal Injury Cases

Strict liability recognizes that certain activities or products inherently carry a high risk of harm, and those engaging in such activities or producing such products should bear responsibility for any resulting injuries.

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History of Strict Liability Law

Strict liability law emerged during the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century. As technological advancements introduced new risks and potential dangers, traditional negligence-based principles struggled to compensate victims adequately.

What Is Strict Liability Law?

Strict liability became a legal doctrine to address situations where proving negligence was challenging or impractical. It initially focused on hazardous activities, such as rock blasting, transporting dangerous goods, and keeping wild animals.

The House of Lords first formulated the Rule of Strict Liability in Rylands v. Fletcher in 1868.

In this case, the defendant commissioned independent contractors to build a reservoir on his property to provide water to his mill.

The contractors did not notice abandoned shafts beneath the reservoir site and failed to seal them off. The defendant did not know these shafts existed.

When the contractors filled the reservoir with water, it burst through the unsealed shafts, resulting in a flood that caused significant damage to the plaintiff's coal mines on the adjacent property.

Despite the defendant's lack of negligence or malicious intent, he needed to pay for the damage to the plaintiff's mines.

Strict Liability vs. Negligence

Negligence is a legal theory that focuses on the actions or inactions of a person or entity that harm another.

To prove negligence, the injured party must demonstrate that:

  • The defendant had a duty of care toward them.
  • The defendant breached that duty.
  • The breach caused the injury.
  • The injury resulted in damages.

In negligence cases, the focus is on the defendant's conduct. The court evaluates their actions based on the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in similar circumstances. If the defendant fails to meet this standard and their actions directly cause harm, they may be liable for the resulting damages.

In strict liability cases, the focus is on the nature of the activity or product involved. If the law considers certain activities or products inherently dangerous, the defendant may be strictly liable for subsequent damages. The injured party does not need to prove the defendant's negligence or fault.

Types of Strict Liability in Personal Injury

In personal injury cases, strict liability law is applicable in several situations. Talk to a personal injury attorney to determine whether this law is relevant to your case. Proving strict liability can help you get the compensation you deserve. Various types of injury may lead to a strict liability case:

Animal Bites

Strict liability laws are often in place to protect animal bite victims. Around 1,000 Americans require emergency treatment after a dog bite every day. In many jurisdictions, dog owners, or people responsible for dog care, are strictly liable for injuries their pets cause, regardless of whether they were negligent or aware of the animal's aggression.

A person may walk past a neighbor's house, for example, knowing the occupant owns an aggressive dog. If the animal escapes the property and bites the passerby, the dog owner is strictly liable for any injuries, as the dog's aggressive nature was a foreseeable risk.

Product Manufacturing

Strict liability commonly applies in cases involving defective products. The law holds manufacturers, distributors, and sellers strictly liable for injuries if their products are faulty or unreasonably dangerous regardless of whether they were negligent during the manufacturing process.

A car manufacturer may produce a vehicle with a faulty braking system, for example. If a driver has an accident due to the braking system's failure, the law holds the manufacturer strictly liable for damages the malfunctioning brakes cause.

Abnormally Dangerous Situations

The law considers certain activities or situations inherently dangerous and imposes strict liability to ensure the safety of others. These cases typically involve hazardous activities or substances that pose a high risk of harm.

A company may perform a fireworks display near a residential area, for example. Despite taking all necessary precautions, if a stray firework causes a fire that damages nearby homes, the law considers this an abnormally dangerous situation and holds the company strictly liable for any damages the firework causes.

How to Prove Strict Liability

Personal injury cases are rarely straightforward. Even if strict liability applies to your situation, you still need to hire an attorney to prove it.

To establish strict liability, you need to:

Demonstrate the Causal Connection

The first step is to demonstrate a direct link between the defendant's actions and the plaintiff's injuries by gathering evidence, such as medical records, eyewitness testimonies, and expert opinions, to establish that the defendant's actions or products directly caused harm.

Prove the Defect or Dangerous Condition

If your case involves strict liability for defective products or abnormally dangerous situations, it is crucial to prove the defect or dangerous condition exists. You can achieve this through product testing, expert analysis, and industry standards. The evidence should clearly show that the product or situation posed an unreasonable risk of harm to you, the plaintiff.

To prove strict liability in the faulty brakes example above, you would need to:

  • Show that the driver used the car as intended.
  • Demonstrate that the braking system failed.
  • Prove that the car caused you harm.

Once you can demonstrate all three elements, you can establish strict liability.

Hire an Attorney

Proving strict liability in personal injury cases can be challenging, as it often involves complex legal principles, extensive research, and thorough investigation. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney can significantly enhance your chances of success.

The attorney can contribute to your case by providing:

An experienced personal injury lawyer will understand strict liability laws and how they apply to your specific case. They can navigate the legal complexities, gather relevant evidence, and build a strong argument on your behalf.

Investigation and Evidence Gathering Skills

Proving strict liability requires comprehensive investigation and evidence gathering. Attorneys know how to demonstrate the connection between the defendant's actions and your injuries. They have the resources to conduct the necessary investigations.

Negotiation and Advocacy

An attorney leverages their negotiation skills to engage with insurance companies, manufacturers, or other parties. They advocate for your rights, ensuring you receive fair compensation for your injuries and damages.

Trial Experience

Having an attorney with relevant experience is invaluable if your case goes to trial. They will present your case effectively, cross-examine witnesses, and argue persuasively to prove strict liability and secure a favorable outcome.

Who Pays in Strict Liability Cases

You will need to identify the responsible party before filing a claim in a personal injury case. When strict liability law applies, at-fault parties may include:

Product Manufacturers

In a defective product strict liability case, the product's manufacturer, designer, producer, or distributor may be accountable.

Manufacturers must ensure their products are safe for their intended use. If a product is defective and causes harm to a consumer, the manufacturer may be strictly liable for the customer's injuries.

Product manufacturers are determined to avoid strict liability because the average award in product liability cases exceeds $2 million. It is up to your attorney to prove they are liable.

Property Owners

If strict liability applies to dangerous conditions on a property, the law holds the owner/occupier responsible for any sustained injuries. If the property owner creates an abnormally dangerous situation that results in a visitor's injuries, strict liability law determines their punishment.

Animal Owners

In cases involving animal attacks or bites, strict liability law considers the animal's owner responsible whether they knew of the animal's aggressive behavior or not. The law expects animal owners to take reasonable measures to prevent their pets from causing harm.

Disadvantages of Strict Liability Law

Strict liability law is highly beneficial for individuals who suffer an injury. It has several disadvantages for numerous industries, however.

Strict liability may discourage businesses from engaging in activities that carry inherent risks despite providing significant benefits.

In the pharmaceutical or medical device manufacturing industries, for instance, strict liability can discourage innovation and the development of potentially life-saving treatments due to the fear of potential legal consequences.

Allowing Strict Liability Law to Work for You

Strict liability is a legal doctrine that holds individuals or entities responsible for the damages their actions cause, regardless of their level of care or intent. If this law applies to your case, it is easier to obtain fair compensation.

A personal injury attorney can demonstrate strict liability to the insurance company or court to hold the at-fault party responsible and allow you to recover damages.

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Gabriel Levin - Attorney

Gabriel Levin is a highly experienced and credible attorney with over 10 years of practice in Pennsylvania. Known for his tenacity, he has represented clients in a wide range of civil matters, trying hundreds of cases. He prepares each case as if it will go to trial, ensuring meticulous attention to detail.

Unlike many firms that delegate tasks, Levin personally handles every aspect of a case and maintains open communication with clients throughout. He has secured millions in compensation, making him a reliable choice for those seeking legal representation.

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