You have heard the word liability. You probably have liability insurance. You know that someone may be found liable in court. But what exactly is liability?
What Is Liability in Ohio?
In a legal context, liability is any type of debt or obligation that an individual, business, or even government is bound by law to pay or perform. If a defendant is found liable for someone’s personal injuries in Ohio’s legal system, that defendant must compensate the injured individual (subject to any limitations found in Ohio law).
Is Liability the Same as Guilt?
There are a couple ways that the legal concept of liability is different than the legal concept of guilt. Firstly, medical malpractice, car accident, and other personal injury lawsuits are civil matters. Guilt is pleaded or determined not in civil court, but criminal court.
Within the civil system, though, there is another distinction between liability and guilt in the everyday sense of the word.
In our daily lives, people tend to equate guilt with having done something wrong or broken the rules. In that sense, a defendant may seem “guilty” if, for example, he ran a red light or sold a car with faulty breaks. In law, though, this sort of guilt does not necessary make an individual liable.
How Liability Works
In personal injury cases, a defendant will only be liable if he has done something wrong AND that action (or, in some cases, inaction) has caused injury to a person or property. Even then, there may be laws or circumstances that render the individual free of liability.
To better explain the concept of liability under Ohio law, consider the driver who runs a red light. If that driver does not cause injury to another person—that is, no accident or harm occurs when the driver runs a red light—then that driver is not liable for any damages.
In Ohio personal injury law, liability is only imposed when all of the elements of a compensable tort have been proven in a legal proceeding or when a defendant admits to liability in order to settle a claim.
Can More Than One Person Be Liable For an Injury?
A defendant who is directly responsible for causing an injury may be found liable for damages. Multiple defendants, too, may be held liable for all or a portion of the damages resulting from their actions.
Additionally, there are several ways that other third parties may be liable—in whole or in part—for the actions of a defendant. This concept is referred to as vicarious liability.
The most common types of vicarious liability involve employers and insurers. Under certain conditions, an employer may be liable for the negligent actions of its employee. Insurers, too, may be contractually liable to pay funds to someone injured by an insured defendant.
Lowe Eklund Wakefield Co., LPA | Cleveland, Ohio Personal Injury Lawyers
The experienced team at Lowe Eklund Wakefield Co., LPA has spent more than thirty years helping injured plaintiffs hold defendants liable. If you or a loved one were injured as the result of a negligent or intentional act, call now for a free consultation.