What is Strict Liability?
When another party injures you, that party can be liable for your damages. Liability is a legally enforceable claim against another party. Damages are the economic losses and pain and suffering an accident victim sustains.
A tort is when one person causes injury to another person. Most personal injury cases involve one of three types of tort – negligence, intentional torts, or strict liability.
Negligence vs. Intentional Torts
Negligence is the most common type of tort in personal injury cases. Motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall claims, medical malpractice, and many other accidents and injuries are all negligence claims.
Proving negligence requires that you prove the other party:
- Owed you a duty of care
- Breached that duty of care
- The breach was a direct and proximate cause of your injuries
- You sustained damages
A person does not need to try to inflict harm to be guilty of negligence. However, you must prove each of the above four legal elements to recover money for your injury claim.
On the other hand, an intentional tort involves someone purposefully injuring another person. Some intentional torts could result in criminal charges against the at-fault party, but not always. If criminal charges are filed, the criminal case would be separate from any personal injury lawsuit.
Examples of intentional torts might include assault, statutory rape, and fraud. There are several areas of criminal law in which intentional torts might apply.
How is Strict Liability Different From Other Types of Liability?
Liability law allows some parties to be held strictly liable for injuries and damages caused to another person. Strict liability means that a person is automatically liable for injuries and damages when they engage in certain prohibited conduct.
It does not matter what the person’s intentions or mental state were when committing the action that caused your injury. In other words, an injury victim does not have to prove that a strictly liable person intentionally or negligently caused their injuries. They are liable simply due to their behavior or actions.
Being strictly liable does not mean that a party is responsible for every injury that another party sustains. There are still legal elements that you must prove in strict liability cases. The legal elements depend on the type of strict liability claim and the laws that apply in the case.
Three Common Strict Liability Cases in Texas
Strict liability can apply in several personal injury cases. Three common types of personal injury claims in which strict liability might apply include: abnormally dangerous activities, defective products, and animal attacks.
Abnormally Dangerous Activity
When a defendant’s abnormally dangerous activity caused an injury, the defendant can be held strictly liable for damages. It does not matter how cautious the defendant acted. The law holds the person strictly liable if they engage in an activity that creates a high degree of risk of serious injury.
These activities create a foreseeable risk of great harm even when using reasonable care, and they are also uncommon in the community.
Common examples of abnormally dangerous activities include those involving explosives, highly toxic biological or chemical materials, or radiation, to name a few.
This theory of strict liability often arises in a premises liability case. The property owner may engage in a dangerous activity. However, the activity must rise to the “abnormally dangerous” level for the owner to be subjected to strict liability for injuries.
Product liability claims involve injuries caused by defective products. Claims involving products liability are some of the most common types of strict liability claims filed.
Proving a strict liability claim for a defective product requires that the injured party prove:
- The defendant was responsible for creating or manufacturing the product
- The defect existed when the product was sold by the defendant and purchased by the injured party
- The injured party purchased and used the product
- The defect was a direct and proximate cause of your injury
- Your injury was reasonably foreseeable based on the extent of the defect
Items that are inherently dangerous because of their design create strict liability. However, you must prove that a defect existed in the product’s design to hold the manufacturer strictly liable for your damages.
Texas laws for dog bites follow the one-bite rule.
If this is the first time the dog has attacked or bitten someone, a victim has the burden of proving that:
- The dog had an unusual ability to do harm
- The dog’s owner was aware of this ability before the attack
- The animal’s ability to cause harm was the cause of your injuries
However, if the dog has bitten someone before, the dog owner can be strictly liable for damages if the dog bites another person. In other words, if the dog has bitten someone before, the injury victim does not need to show that the defendant knew or should have known the dog had an unusual ability to harm.
The same rules may apply in other types of animal injury cases. If a person owns wild animals, the level of liability may be different because of the inherent danger of housing wild animals.
Contact Our Texas Personal Injury Lawyers for a Free Consultation
Strict liability can be difficult to understand. Our personal injury lawyers review your case to determine whether strict liability might apply. Contact our Houston personal injury law office to schedule a free consultation to learn more about your legal options after an accident or injury, or call us at (713) 500-5000.