Personal injury lawyers looking at cases are always focused on the question of the defendant's liability. However, liability doesn't work just one way in injury law. Take a look at how variations in the type of liability in a case and a state's laws can influence the outcome of a claim or suit.

Negligence vs. Strict Liability

At the overarching level, liability fits into one of these two categories. Negligence is a blanket concept that covers many types of omissions and actions. If a convenience store's staff doesn't clean up a spill for half an hour and then a customer slips in the puddle, that's negligence. The spill was likely unpreventable, but the staff failed to take the appropriate measure of cleaning the area.

Strict liability covers specific activities that are predictably dangerous. Many kinds of contracting and industrial work fall in this category, especially licensed work with dangerous substances and systems. Similarly, almost all injuries involving exotic animals are covered by strict liability. Dog bite cases may be, too, but each state has laws about when that applies.


You might be wondering why this distinction matters. When personal injury attorneys try to prove that a defendant is liable, there have more work to do if the case involves negligence. In a strict liability case, the question simply is whether the defendant's actions led to the injuries. For example, if an explosives contractor sends a piece of concrete flying and it hits someone, that's the end of the discussion about liability. The contractor owes damages unless they can prove the flying concrete didn't come from their work.

Conversely, negligence cases still require proof that the defendant was legally responsible for what happened. In most states, personal injury lawyers also have to prove the defendant's negligence was the predominant cause of the incident. In the convenience store example, the business might not be liable if the victim ignored a wet floor sign.

Gross Negligence

Within the world of negligence, there is also a further question of gross negligence. This is normally only an issue in cases where the defendant's insurance policy has coverage limits. There are also some states with limits on injury torts. Gross negligence may nullify those limits, meaning the victim might be able to recover more compensation.

Malicious or reckless actions are usually seen as similar to gross negligence. Consequently, they're often treated the same way in terms of compensation limits.

For more information, reach out to a personal injury lawyer today.