Application of Strict Liability in Auto Accidents

The judicial system relies on several legal theories to adjudicate personal injury cases. The legal theory determines liability and compensation after a personal injury. One of these legal theories is strict liability. Below is an overview of strict liability in auto accident cases.

An Overview of Strict Liability

Ordinarily, you only get compensation for personal injury if you prove that the defendant's actions were negligent or intentional. The legal theory of strict liability allows you to pursue personal injury damages without proving anyone's negligence.

With strict liability, you just need to prove that:

  • The defendant acted or failed to act in a certain way
  • The action or inaction caused your injuries
  • The injuries caused you real damages

The proof may look superficial, but they are not, and you have to prove each beyond a reasonable doubt.

Application in Auto Accidents

Strict liability typically applies to cases involving animals, ultra-hazardous activities, and defective products. Of these three civil suits, only the last two may apply to auto accident cases.

1. Abnormally Dangerous Activities

The court will look at the totality of the circumstances around your injury to determine whether the defendant's actions were abnormally dangerous. To prove that an activity is abnormally dangerous, you must show that:

  • The activity can easily harm people or damage property
  • No one can undertake the activity with zero risk of injury or damage
  • The activity is unusual — few people engage in it

Examples of abnormally dangerous activities in the transport industry include explosives, radioactive, or corrosive chemicals.

Consider an example where you collide with a fuel truck, which then explodes and burns your car. You can file a strict liability claim for your accident since:

  • Fuel is explosive, and it can cause extreme damage or injuries in case of an accident
  • Fuel transportation is inherently risky irrespective of precautions transporters use
  • The average person does not transport fuel

Thus, you only need to prove that:

  • The defendant was the one transporting the fuel that exploded
  • The explosion caused the fire that burned your car
  • You suffered significant injuries or monetary losses in the fire

Ownership documents of the track, medical records for your injuries, and pictures or videos of the explosion can help you prove your case.

2. Defective Product

Car defects can cause or contribute to auto accidents. You can use strict liability to pursue compensation if you suffer losses in such an accident. In this case, you need to prove that:

  • The car or one of its parts was defective
  • The defendant is responsible for the defect
  • The defect caused you harm
  • You suffered financial losses due to the harm

Here are examples of auto accidents or injuries that defective products can cause:

  • Defective tires that burst and trigger loss of control of a car
  • Defective brakes that prevent a car from safety stopping in case of a road hazard
  • A Defective electrical system that triggers fire at a certain speed

Let us look at the example of defective tires. In this case, the defendant is the tire manufacturer and other parties involved in the tire's chain of distribution, such as the wholesaler.

You must prove that the tires were defective (for example, the rubber components were in the wrong ratio), and the defect was the direct cause of the accident. For example, you don't have a strict liability case if the tires were defective, but the accident occurred because the driver was drunk. You must also prove real damages from the accident.

Palmetto Injury Lawyers has over 25 years of experience with personal injury cases. Contact us to review your auto accident case and determine the legal theory to apply in your case. That way, we can help you get the maximum damages possible.

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