How Liability Differs From Responsibility In Injury Law

Posted on: 12 March 2021

Liability is the central concept in the work of a personal injury attorney. If you're trying to figure out whether you can sue or file a claim against a defendant's insurance, the big question is whether you can make liability stick.

For someone who doesn't provide personal injury attorney services, liability may sound an awful lot like responsibility. There are some big differences between the two so take a look at them.

Someone Besides the Responsible Person May Be Liable

Suppose an incident occurs at a hotel because a member of the maintenance staff left a bucket where a guest stepped into it and fell. There's a clear differentiation between the staff member's responsibility for what physically happened versus that worker's liability.

In virtually no theory of personal injury law is the worker liable. Rather, the hotel's operator is liable because they own the premises and are supposed to keep them safe for guests. The hotel's operator is considered vicariously liable for the actions or failures of their employees. Consequently, it is the hotel as a business that's liable rather than the employee, even though the worker is the one who most directly caused what happened.

Why Does This Matter?

It depends on how the defendant responds to an incident. For example, a company might try to label a worker a contractor in order to push liability onto someone else. Generally, this won't work in a premises liability case like the example involving a hotel. Liability doesn't follow who employed the responsible actor. Instead, it follows who was liable for keeping the premises safe.

Notably, liability can be assigned by contract. If a business turns a location over to a remodeling company, for example, the renovators might accept liability for incidents during their time on the premises. There are also scenarios involving commercial rental properties, such as a mall assigning liability to a business tenant for incidents within the rented retail space.

How Does It Shape a Claim or Suit?

The primary influence is on who becomes the defendant. If you fail to name the right party as the defendant, it can set a claim back dramatically. That's especially the case if you're close to the statute of limitations because you might not have time to track down the right defendant before it expires.

It's prudent to retain personal injury attorney services early in the process. A personal injury attorney can help you identify who they believe the liable party is and avoid potentially costly mistakes.

Reach out to a personal injury attorney today for more information.