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What is Strict Liability and How is it Determined?

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Have you suffered an injury that wasn’t your fault?

You may be familiar with criminal negligence, but sometimes a court holds a party responsible even without it. Strict liability is the area of law that determines responsibility regardless of intent.

In 2018, the average jury award for product liability was $7,676,720. In second place was medical malpractice, with $4,735,619 of compensation. Personal negligence comes in third with $2,573,103 paid out.

We’re going to help you understand a little more about strict liability, so you can determine if you should seek compensation for your injuries. We’ll cover the three main types and some possible defenses. Read on!

Strict Liability

In legal terms, cause of action is a fact or multiple facts that validate a legal action against another party. This is true for both individuals and organizations alike – we are all responsible for our actions. A company is also responsible for its products.

When damages occur to a plaintiff (injured party), this responsibility is still in place, irrespective of any finding of fault on the defendant (accused party). The plaintiff does not have to prove that the defendant acted recklessly on purpose or even that they acted recklessly at all.

If the action of a defendant causes harm to a plaintiff, there is strict liability.

Under this section of the law, the injury alone justifies holding the defendant liable. In U.S. law, a tort is an act that leads to injury or harm. State laws vary on what torts constitute strict liability and what they consider fair damages.

Statutory rape is a good example of strict liability. It does not matter whether a defendant believed that his partner was an adult at the time they gave consent if they were a minor.

The sale of alcohol to a minor is another example of a crime that comes under strict liability. It’s irrelevant that the seller believed the person looked older than 21. Speeding offenses may also come under this umbrella, as the driver does not need to be aware that they exceeded the speed limit to be on the hook.

Animal Bites

Some states apply strict liability to bites and attacks of pets. It might not matter where the attack took place or why. The law dictates that animals do not act morally, so the legal responsibility is on the owner to prevent them from injuring others.

Some states make a distinction between domestic pets and wild animals and offer exceptions. One such exception might be that you can only enforce strict liability if the owner knew that the animal had dangerous potential.

When determining strict liability for a dog bite, the 2020 Florida statutes disregard any “former viciousness of the dog.” Negligence on the part of the individual that suffered the bite will also reduce the percentage of negligence.

The pet does not have to be a domesticated animal, it could also be a wild animal that is being kept. Strict liability is enforceable in the case of wild animals, whether the animal is generally considered to be dangerous or not.

Ultrahazardous Activity

When an individual or organization creates an abnormally dangerous set of conditions, strict liability applies if harm or injury is caused to another party.

For an activity to qualify as ultrahazardous, it has to have a high risk of harm even if a duty of reasonable care is carried out. It’s also not usually a common activity

An example of an ultrahazardous activity is the bulk storage of volatile chemicals in a residential apartment complex. An activity like sky-diving might appear to be an ultrahazardous activity, but the consenting party usually signs a liability waiver first.

Product Liability

In the area of product liability, strict liability may also apply. All parties involved in the production or retail of an item face legal liability if it has an inherent flaw that leads to a personal injury. You don’t need to show any negligence to sue.

As long as an injured party can prove that the product was used as directed and that it was not altered in any way, they have a case. In short, the product was created and marketed in such a way that normal use caused their injuries.

It’s important to note that under strict liability a personal injury claim for a dangerous product is equally valid whether the person using it purchased it or not.

If the injured party can successfully prove their claim of strict liability, then the manufacturer is liable for damages. It doesn’t matter if any waivers/disclaimers were included with the product. The reason that courts rule to invalidate such disclaimers is that they would otherwise be encouraging the release of defective products.

Criminal Defense

A defense strategy might seek to rule contributory/comparative negligence. This infers that the plaintiff was injured by their actions, at least in part, and that damages should be waivered or reduced.

If the defendant asserts an assumption of risk, they are suggesting that the plaintiff had fair warning of the risks and was therefore fully aware. They continued their risky action, and the injury incurred was their fault.

A statute of limitations applies to most states for civil lawsuits. This dictates a certain time limit for legal action to take place after an injury takes occurs. This may be cited in court as a defense if the time has expired.

A statute of repose is a time limit for filing a lawsuit based on time alone, regardless of any injury. For example, some states may have a time limit of 10 years for filing a personal injury lawsuit after the introduction of a product.

Need Legal Representation?

We’ve shown that strict liability can favor personal injury victims in many circumstances. Don’t let your medical bills mount for an accident that wasn’t your fault.

If you need a criminal defense or family lawyer, we can help you. We are attorneys at law in the heart of St. Petersburg, Florida and we are dedicated to providing powerful legal advocacy for our clients in the Tampa Bay area and nationwide.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

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