What is Strict Liability?

When someone is liable in a personal injury case, they are responsible for paying an injury victim’s damages. Most personal injury cases are based on negligence, which requires proving a party breached a duty of care and caused an accident or injury. In strict liability cases, a party can be liable for engaging in certain conduct. In other words, an injury victim or plaintiff does not have to prove the party was negligent to recover compensation.

Defining Strict Liability

Strict liability exists in civil and criminal law but only for specific cases. Strict liability laws exist to protect public health and safety. They hold a person automatically liable for engaging in certain behaviors without regard to intent or fault.

In civil cases, a strictly liable party must pay damages related to their conduct. For example, they may be responsible for compensating victims for their economic and non-economic damages. Only certain cases qualify as strict liability.

In criminal law, a defendant can be guilty of certain crimes regardless of whether they intended to commit the crime. For example, statutory rape is a crime where the offender’s intent doesn’t matter. Holding an offender strictly liable for statutory rape prevents offenders from claiming they believed the victim was over the age of consent. Likewise, many traffic offenses are strict liability crimes. A driver can be ticketed for speeding, even if they didn’t mean to drive above the speed limit.

What Types of Cases Qualify as Strict Liability?

In the area of civil law, only a few activities will lead to strict liability. 

In Florida, three main types of conduct can lead to strict liability: 

  • Defective products: Suppose a manufacturer or distributor sells a product that contains defects in its design, manufacture, or marketing. In this case, it can be held strictly liable for any injuries its products cause to consumers.
  • Inherently dangerous activities: Some activities are dangerous even when exercising reasonable caution. A party can be strictly liable for engaging in an unreasonably dangerous activity uncommon in the community. Examples of inherently dangerous activities include the use of explosives and the use or transportation of hazardous or nuclear material.  
  • Animal injuries: If a person owns a wild animal, they can be strictly liable for any injuries that that animal causes. Wild animals can include undomesticated and non-livestock animals, such as tigers, bears, and venomous reptiles. In Florida, dog owners are strictly liable when their dog bites someone — even if the dog had never bitten previously.

Make sure you speak to an experienced attorney right away if you have been injured in any of the above circumstances. If your case does not meet the strict liability standard, then you may still be eligible to file a different type of legal action.

What Do You Have to Prove in a Strict Liability Case?

The main thing you have to prove in a strict liability case is that a party engaged in certain prohibited conduct and that you were harmed. You don’t have to prove that the company or person acted unreasonably or failed to exercise reasonable care. In strict liability cases, you simply have to prove that a defendant injured you.

The harm justifies liability in strict liability cases. The court doesn’t typically care how careful the defendant was or the precautions that were taken. Strict liability is strict liability.

What Compensation Can You Recover in a Strict Liability Case?

Although strict liability cases take a different legal approach than negligence claims, the financial result can be the same. 

If you are injured because of a strict liability activity, you can recover compensation for:

These are just a few of the economic and non-economic damages that you might be entitled to in a strict liability claim. If the court feels that the defendant’s conduct is shocking or grossly negligent, it can assess punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded to punish bad conduct as well deter future similar conduct.

Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Lawyer for Help

Only select cases qualify for strict liability. Although these cases might sound easier to prove, you still need strong evidence to establish your claim. A Clearwater personal injury lawyer can conduct an investigation to gather evidence of the at-fault party’s misconduct and assess whether it qualifies for strict liability. They can calculate your damages and consult experts to strengthen your case.

If your case doesn’t qualify for strict liability, your lawyer can evaluate other options for pursuing compensation after your injury. You may have a negligence or intentional tort claim. Contact an attorney today for help with your claim.