How Intent And Liability Factor Into Injury Claims

Anyone who visits a personal injury law office will hear a lot about the concept of liability. This may also open up questions about what the defendant's intent had been by their actions in the moments before an incident. Variations in liability and intent can cause major swings in how much money a personal injury law firm might recover with a claim. Let's look at how these issues might affect your case.

General vs. Strict Liability

The big difference here is that strict liability reduces how much proof you have to present. In particular, you won't have to prove that the defendant was negligent, reckless, or malicious in their intentions. When a party is strictly liable, the question is, "Did their actions lead to the claimant's injuries?" If the answer is yes, then the defense owes compensation.

Strict liability applies mostly to things that society wants companies, professionals, and private citizens to take very seriously. Anyone who owns an exotic animal is strictly liable for injuries the animal causes. Contractors who work in especially dangerous fields, such as explosives, are also strictly liable. The same goes for manufacturers of products.

The Role of Intent

With general liability, the claimant has to prove that the defendant had a duty to prevent harm to others. Likewise, the claimant has to show that more likely than not the defendant was negligent, reckless, or malicious. Each of these is functional a level of intent.

When someone is negligent, the level of intent is relatively low. They should have taken precautions to prevent their actions from harming you, but they didn't mean to hurt you. If a store's employees fail to clean up spilled milk and you slip in it, that's negligence.

Reckless hits a point where someone should have known better. A driver who was moving in and out of several lanes on an expressway is reckless. They didn't mean to harm anyone, but they should have known their actions could cause harm.

Malice covers when someone meant to harm another and they did it. If somebody punched you at a sports bar because they didn't like the team you were cheering for, that would be malicious.

The level of intent often determines how much in the way of damages you can collect. A victim of simple negligence wouldn't expect punitive damages in a lawsuit, but someone might seek them in an injury case arising from a criminal assault.