Skip to navigation
Man and women talking to a lawyer while she's reviewing documents on a laptop


Jeff Martin Jan. 29, 2022

At any given moment, there’s a chance you could get hurt. Maybe you trip on a crack in the sidewalk. Maybe a neighborhood dog bites you. Maybe you’re involved in a car accident. In all these scenarios, there is someone who’s held liable. What does liable mean? To be liable means that the party that’s legally at fault is held responsible. 

When it comes to determining who can be held responsible in a personal injury case, the law assumes that everyone is responsible for their own actions and that every person has a duty for acting in a manner that doesn’t endanger or injure another. When someone is negligent and doesn’t do that, a personal injury attorney can work to establish liability. 

Establishing liability can be a complicated process, and before it can be established, it must be proven that negligence was involved. Below, we'll go over the types of negligence, personal injury liability, and how to establish liability. 

What are the Different Types of Negligence? 

Negligence is the “failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances.” When someone isn’t acting in a way that protects, the safety of others, they’re negligent. When it comes to personal injury liability, establishing liability also includes establishing negligence. There are five elements of negligence when it comes to the law: 

  • Existence of legal duty. A legal duty is “an obligation, created by law or contract. A legal duty requires a person to conform his or her actions to a particular standard.” This means that we all have a duty to make sure that our actions won’t hurt anyone else. Think of this type of negligence through the lens of driving. It could include anything from driving while intoxicated to driving at an excessive speed to knowingly driving a vehicle that is defective — all of which may result in an accident and can hurt other people. 

  • Failure to exercise legal duty. The failure to exercise legal duty means that someone knowingly engages in an activity that can potentially harm another person but chooses to do so anyway. In the example of drinking and driving, someone who chooses to get behind the wheel after drinking is failing to exercise their legal duty because they know that it’s dangerous and that they can hurt themselves or other people. 

  • Physical harm resulting from negligent actions. This is straightforward. In order to have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit, an injury that required medical attention and harmed one party in a physical, emotional, or financial manner has to have occurred. 

  • Injuries created actual damages. This type of negligence requires that whatever harm was caused to you actually result in severe physical damages. For example, if a dog bites you but the bite doesn't break the skin, cause you emotional duress, or financial loss, you don’t have grounds for a lawsuit. If it does, you do. 

  • The proximate cause shows the harm was within the scope of liability. Proximate cause, or actual cause, refers to, “a factor without which the result in question could not happen. The but-for test is often used to determine actual causation.” This means that there’s a direct correlation between an action that was taken and harm that was caused because of that action. 

Establishing Liability in Personal Injury Cases 

When it comes to personal injury liability, showing that one party was negligent is necessary for establishing liability. Determining who’s at fault, or liable can happen in a few ways. If someone admits that they were at fault, liability is determined really easily. Other times, a jury trial is needed to establish liability. One of the basic concepts of law is that negligence can’t be defended, so once negligence is proved, that’s all that’s needed to prove liability. 

When one party is liable for physical harm to another, they become financially responsible for compensating the person they harmed for injuries sustained, emotional duress, and any financial damages as well. If you’re in a car accident as the result of the negligence of another driver and you end up with a concussion, PTSD, and a totaled vehicle, the other party should be financially responsible for your medical bills, therapy bills, and paying to replace your car. 

When to Call a Personal Injury Attorney 

If you’ve been injured in an accident — whether on the road, at work, at a friend’s house, or walking down the street — let Jeff Martin and the Heavy Hitter® team get you the compensation you deserve. From working with insurance companies to establishing negligence and liability to ensuring that you’re fairly compensated, Jeff Martin Law is here for you. Contact us for a free consultation today!