Liability is the legal responsibility for damages and harm caused to another party. Someone can be liable for damages due to their actions, failure to act, or the actions of people or animals under their control. Damages are the remedy the court offers to make an injured party “whole” again after someone causes them harm.
Proving Liability in a Texas Personal Injury Case
Liability standards vary depending on the type and facts of a case. One or more liability standards could apply in your personal injury matter. An experienced personal injury lawyer can determine which standard applies in your case.
Negligence is the failure to exercise reasonable caution when you owe someone a duty of care. Breaching the duty of care can create liability for damages. Many personal injury cases are based on negligence.
Proving negligence requires sufficient evidence to establish the following:
- The party owed the victim a legal duty of care
- The party’s actions or inactions breached their duty of care
- The party’s breach of duty was the proximate and direct cause of the victim’s injury
- The victim incurred damages because of the party’s actions or inactions
Juries decide whether a person has breached their duty of care by comparing their conduct to a “reasonable person.” The jury must determine what a reasonable person would have done given the same or similar circumstances. If the party’s conduct fell short of that standard, the jury may decide the party was negligent.
An example of negligence could be a driver running a red light, driving under the influence, or speeding through a school zone. Another example could be a store owner failing to clean up a spill or repair broken steps.
Negligence Per Se
In an at-fault state like Texas, the injured party must prove the elements of negligence to win their case. However, that burden of proof could shift to the defendant in a negligence per se case.
When a person injures someone while violating a law intended to protect the public, there can be a rebuttable presumption of negligence. The party is presumed to be negligent unless they can prove otherwise.
An example of negligence per se could be a DUI accident. Suppose a driver had a BAC of .08 or higher. If so, the driver violated Texas DUI laws.
Therefore, if the drunk driver causes an accident, they are presumed to be negligent. The driver would need to prove that they did not cause the accident, or the injured victim could win the case.
Strict liability holds a party responsible for damages even if they did not intend to cause an injury. In these cases, the injured victim does not need to prove negligence to recover damages.
Examples of strict liability cases in Texas include, but might not be limited to:
- Product liability claims
- Cases involving wild animals
- Abnormally dangerous activities
- Some criminal acts
Strict liability may also apply in some dog bite cases. The owner must have known that the dog was dangerous for strict liability to apply. Otherwise, you would need to prove negligence to recover damages.
In most personal injury cases, a party must contribute to the cause of the victim’s injury to be legally liable for damages. However, vicarious liability holds another party responsible for damages even though they did not directly contribute to the cause of the victim’s injuries.
Vicarious liability often applies in cases when an employee negligently causes an injury. For example, a trucking company could be liable for damages if a truck driver causes an injury. A business owner could be liable if an employee accidentally spills hot liquid on a customer.
The employee must have acted within their employment scope for the employer to be liable for damages. Generally, companies are not responsible for damages caused by independent contractors.
Recovering Damages in a Texas Personal Injury Case
Examples of damages in a personal injury case include:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Impairments and disabilities
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Diminished earning capacity
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Emotional distress
- Scarring and disfigurement
Comparative fault could reduce the amount you receive for a claim, even if the other party is liable for your damages. Under this theory, your level of blame for causing your injuries reduces the amount of compensation you receive.
For example, if you are 10% to blame for causing a car crash, you could only receive 90% of your damages. Under Texas law, if you’re more than 50% to blame, you are barred from receiving any compensation.
A San Antonio Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Prove Liability in Your Case
Texas is an at-fault state. Therefore, you must prove all legal elements of your claim to create liability for damages, which can sometimes be difficult. We can help.