Understand the Theory of Strict Liability and what You Have to Prove in this Type of Personal Injury Case
In New Jersey personal injury law, an injury victim generally must prove a number of things about the injury accident and the responsible party in order to recoup damages. However, there are cases in which the elements a victim generally must prove are not required. Strict liability cases are an example. Read on to learn more about what strict liability theory is in personal injury law and how it could affect your case.
The Concept of Strict Liability in Personal Injury Cases
In most personal injury cases, a victim must prove that the responsible party was at fault and that they intended to harm or failed to take reasonable care and thus, caused harm. This is shown by proving negligence. According to strict liability theory, however, a party could be considered liable for an injury without fault or negligence being proven. A party is strictly liable when their actions themselves pose a risk to safety, regardless of their intent, or when they provide a faulty product that causes injury to someone who was using it in a reasonable fashion.
Cases in Which Strict Liability Applies in New Jersey
Strict liability is applied most commonly in three cases. The first is product liability cases. A company is strictly liable when a product leaves the manufacturer with a defect. If a plaintiff can prove that they used the product according to its instructions and it was defective upon purchase, the company can be held strictly liable to cover the cost of damages.
Strict liability is also applied in cases in which someone’s hazardous activities pose a huge risk to surrounding safety and ultimately cause injury. An example of this is a landlord who uses highly flammable materials to clean common areas and then stores those materials on site. When a small fire causes an explosion, it could be proven that their activities were hazardous in themselves and caused an injury. The domestication of wild animals also creates a highly hazardous condition that can cause injury. An owner can be held strictly liable even if the animal was not known to pose a risk to others, simply because the risk associated with domesticating a wild animal is so great.
Challenges in Proving Strict Liability in NJ
In order to prove strict liability, a plaintiff must prove that the actions of the defendant were hazardous, that injury or accident could have been predicted due to such risky actions, and that they were injured specifically as a result of those actions or hazards. For example, in the case of the landlord storing flammable materials in an apartment building’s common areas, a plaintiff injured in an apartment fire would need to prove that the landlord was engaging in unnecessarily risky behavior using such cleaning products and furthermore storing them on-site; that product warnings specifically pointed to a risk of fire; and that their smoke inhalation injury, as well as the loss of items in their home, was the result of the landlord’s hazardous behavior.
In a product liability case, the plaintiff must prove that the product that caused the injury was defective; that the defect made the product dangerous; that they used the product as they were instructed to; and that they were injured as a result of using the product as such.
Damages Recovered for an Injured Victim Under Strict Liability
In a strict liability personal injury case, damages can be recovered to cover medical expenses, lost or damaged property, lost work time and wages, non-economic damages like pain and suffering, and associated out-of-pocket costs.
Why Is It Essential to Retain a Personal Injury Lawyer in Strict Liability Cases?
Personal injury cases, especially those that involve strict liability, require the expertise of a qualified lawyer. This is because there are a number of defenses that a defendant could turn to in a strict liability case. If a defendant can prove that the plaintiff was aware of the risk posed by such a circumstance and approached the situation voluntarily, they can be relieved from responsibility for costs associated with the plaintiff’s injury. Having a skilled personal injury lawyer on your side could mean thousands of dollars of compensation for your injury and associated costs that you could be entitled to by having a solid strict liability case.
At Cohen & Riechelson, our renowned personal injury lawyers are here to help you determine if the defendant can be held to the terms of strict liability in your case. With over 50 years of experience successfully representing clients in New Jersey, such as Hamilton, Ewing, Mount Holly, Hightstown, Burlington, and Mercer County, our attorneys are exceptionally positioned to assist you in recovering damages for your accident injuries.