Personal Injury Liability: How Liability Is Determined

Liability is a keyword you will hear often during a personal injury case in Texas. In legalese, liability is one party’s legal and financial responsibility for an accident. If someone is liable, that party is responsible for bearing the costs related to the accident, such as medical bills and property repairs. Understanding how liability is determined can help you identify the correct liable party (defendant) for your personal injury case.


What Is Liability?

Holding someone liable means holding that party responsible for his or her actions. When one person or party fails to meet the duty of care, and this results in an accident, injury, or harm to someone else, that party will be liable for damages. It will become that party’s responsibility to pay for victims’ costs, expenses, and losses, typically through the at-fault party’s insurance provider. The amount the liable party will be responsible for paying will depend on the amount of insurance coverage available and the extent of the victim’s damages.


How Is Liability Determined?

Liability is generally determined by identifying which party or parties were negligent. In personal injury law, negligence is the careless failure to uphold a duty of care, resulting in harm to another person. A duty of care is a legal obligation to act in a manner that is reasonable according to the circumstances. The actions a reasonable party would have taken will be the standard to which the defendant is upheld.

Determining liability takes asking to which party four elements apply:


  1. The party owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
  2. The party breached the duty of care.
  3. The breach of duty caused or significantly contributed to the accident.
  4. A victim suffered some loss as a result of the breach of duty.


If the party in question committed an act or omission that a reasonable and prudent party would not have in the same situation, and this is why the plaintiff suffered his or her injury, the party will bear liability. Many cases use the “but for” test; if the plaintiff’s injuries would not have taken place but for the defendant’s negligence, the defendant will be liable.


Strict Liability Exception

The exception to this rule is a case that uses the doctrine of strict liability. Strict liability places a legal responsibility on a defendant even without proof of negligence or a breach of duty. In a strict product liability lawsuit, for example, a manufacturer will automatically bear liability for the injuries caused by a defective product, even if the manufacturer was not negligent or careless.


What Is the Burden of Proof?

The burden of proof refers to the amount of evidence needed for a party to prove liability. In personal injury law, the burden of proof rests with the plaintiff. It is the injured party’s responsibility to prove the defendant is at fault and liable for the damages in question. The burden of proof in civil law is a preponderance of the evidence: enough evidence to prove the defendant more likely than not (at least 51%) caused the plaintiff to be injured.


This burden of proof is not as difficult to meet as the burden in the criminal justice system, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. However, it still requires clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is most likely the person or party at fault for the plaintiff’s injury. Fulfilling the burden of proof may require evidence such as witness testimony, photographs and videos, eyewitnesses, accident reports, and medical records.

To learn more about liability during a personal injury case in Texas, contact an attorney. A personal injury lawyer in San Antonio can help you determine liability, collect evidence of negligence and prove fault during a case.

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