What Is Liability? 

You may have heard the terms “liability” or “liable” in casual conversation. But what does liability mean in a legal sense? This term is one of the most important in personal injury cases because if someone is liable for your injuries, they are financially responsible for making you whole. 

Below, we discuss liability and everything you need to know about it. You can also contact us anytime to discuss who is liable for your injuries and how you can pursue compensation for them.

Liability Defined 

Liability Defined 

Being liable for something means you are legally responsible for it. This term can apply to different legal areas, including contract law, insurance law, and personal injury law. Because a person who is liable for something is legally responsible, they can be made to pay monetary damages to the person they’ve caused harm. 

Types of Liability in Personal Injury Cases

Liability is a legal concept. Someone is liable because the law states that they are responsible for the harm they cause. Liability can take on different forms, including:


Negligence is the most common type of legal claim in personal injury cases. Negligence means that a person has acted carelessly and caused harm to someone else through their carelessness. When this happens, that person is liable for the damages they’ve caused. 

Strict Liability

Strict liability arises when a party is liable for another’s harm based on a particular law or legal principle. By virtue of the specific circumstances occurring, the defendant is responsible for the harm, even if they didn’t intend it or the plaintiff cannot prove they were negligent. 

A common example of strict liability in a legal action is a dog bite case. Some states, including Illinois, use strict liability for dog bites. In Illinois, a dog owner is strictly liable for a victim’s injuries if their dog, without provocation, attacked, attempted to attack, or injured someone who was peaceably on property they were legally allowed to be. You don’t have to prove the dog owner was negligent. 

Intentional Actions

In some cases, a person may act intentionally in causing harm to another. Personal injury claims may be made against that party to seek financial compensation for the harm the victim sustained. These are called intentional torts. 

Some common examples of intentional torts include:

  • Assault
  • Battery
  • Fraud
  • Trespass
  • Defamation 
  • Conversion 
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress
  • False imprisonment 

Some of these claims may involve a criminal case. However, you do not have to show that a person is criminally responsible to establish they are civilly liable. 

How Does Liability Relate To Personal Injury Law?

Personal injury law, or tort law, deals with cases in which someone hurts another and is financially responsible for making them whole. However, to obtain compensation, the victim must prove that the at-fault party is liable for their injuries.

Common examples of personal injury cases include:

Many of these types of accidents can result in significant expenses to the victim. Personal injury victims may suffer painful injuries, be billed for expensive medical bills, miss considerable time from work, and have their life disrupted because of another person’s carelessness. When these events arise, personal injury law allows accident victims to pursue compensation for the harm they’ve experienced.  

How To Prove Liability in a Negligence Claim

Negligence is the most common legal principle involved in personal injury cases. Therefore, it is important to understand all of the elements you must prove to establish liability and, therefore, recover compensation. The elements of negligence are:

Duty of Care

Duty of care is the legal duty that a party has in a particular situation. 

For example, all motorists have a duty to follow traffic laws and avoid collisions. Property owners have a duty to keep their premises in a safe condition to avoid harming visitors, such as by clearing their sidewalk of ice that could pose a risk. Product manufacturers have a duty to make safe products for consumers to use. Doctors owe patients a duty to provide care consistent with the accepted standard of medical care. 

Breach of Duty

A breach of duty is something a party does (or doesn’t do) that violates their legal obligation. 

Examples include:

  • A motorist exceeds the speed limit
  • A property owner fails to remove ice from their sidewalk
  • A product manufacturer does not use quality control measures to ensure a product is safe
  • A doctor fails to order a test that should have been ordered based on the patient’s symptoms and/or medical history


There must be a direct connection between the defendant’s breach of duty and the victim’s harm. You must be able to show that the harm would not have occurred but for the defendant’s actions. For example, if the motorist had not been speeding, the accident would not have occurred. 


You must also be able to show that you suffered damages because of the accident. Damages are some type of injury a person suffers for which a court can compensate them. 

There are different types of damages, such as:

Physical Injury 

Physical injuries often follow accidents, such as broken bones from slip and fall accidents or whiplash from car accidents. 

When a person sustains physical injuries, they typically have medical expenses to treat these injuries. They may also endure pain and suffering because of the injuries. 

Physical injuries can also prevent a person from being able to do the things they previously enjoyed in life. There is a legal right for accident victims to be compensated for losses caused by physical injury. 

Financial Damages 

Personal injuries can lead to financial losses for victims, including:

  • Medical expenses for emergency care and treatment
  • Lost wages for time off work 
  • Damage to a vehicle or personal property
  • Funeral and burial expenses in the case of wrongful death

In addition to losses from past financial harm, victims may suffer financial losses in the future, such as a permanent reduction in their earning capacity or future medical expenses. 

Emotional Distress

Sometimes, the harm a person suffers is not as tangible or obvious. However, they may struggle psychologically with it. They may not be able to function as they did before. They may suffer from depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders. 

Depending on the circumstances, accident victims may be able to recover compensation for these types of damages. These damages are intended to compensate the accident victim for the harm they have suffered. 

What If Multiple Parties Share Liability?

In some situations, more than one party is liable for the harm the accident victim suffers. When this happens, liability can be apportioned between the parties. 

For example, in a car accident involving three vehicles, the accident victim may be able to pursue claims against both of the other drivers. The driver responsible for 60% of the accident is liable for 60% of the damages. The driver responsible for 40% of the accident is liable for 40% of the victim’s damages. 

Contact an Experienced Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer For Help Proving Liability

If you would like more information about establishing liability in a personal injury case, contact a skilled Chicago personal injury attorney at Zayed Law Offices Personal Injury Attorneys.You can call us at (312) 726-1616.