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Determining who was at fault, or liable, for an injury has everything to do with a personal injury case. If liability can be determined, an injured person may be able to obtain money, property, or the enforcement of a right against another party who is held liable, or responsible, for their harm.

Under tort law, people may not be held liable for every harmful act that they cause, but only for three basic types: intentional acts, unintentional but negligent acts, or conduct that falls within a special category called strict liability.

Intentional Harm

Intentional torts are offenses committed by someone who intends to do harm, and for intent to exist, the individual doing the harm must be fully aware that his act will result in injury to someone else. The act itself must be intentional, not merely careless or reckless. An example of an intentional tort is defamation of character, in which a false statement is made about another person that causes that person to suffer harm.


The second type of conduct that a person may be found liable for in a personal injury case are unintentional or negligent acts. The difference between negligence and an intentional tort is that negligent acts are not expected or intended, yet still result in harm to another person. An example of an unintentional tort in which someone might be found liable is a car accident in which a driver was speeding or failed to stop at a stop sign.

Strict Liability

Strict liability, sometimes called absolute liability, leads to liability regardless of whether the harmful conduct was intentional, negligent, or entirely innocent. This type of liability is most commonly associated with defectively manufactured products. In a strict liability case, the person injured has to prove that he was harmed but is not required to prove the negligence of the product manufacturer.

How is Liability Determined?

Liability is typically established through a careful investigation of the circumstances surrounding an accident. Even if there is tangible proof that one person injured another (such as a traffic ticket), this does not automatically make that person liable.

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