Joint Liability

12 Aug 2010

Posted by Norman

One of the key elements in any civil case is determining who is liable and to what degree they are responsible for the plaintiff's injuries. Most of the time it is easy to arbitrate who is liable as, more often than not, only a single person or entity is responsible for the harm caused.

However, there are times when more than one individual or institution is shown to be liable and this is where joint liability comes in. In essence, joint liability is when two or more individuals or institutions are considered to be responsible for any injury caused to the plaintiff.

In relation to personal injury law, joint liability becomes a question of not only who is responsible for the injury suffered, but to what extent each person who had a hand in the injury is liable for it. This in turn leads to determining who pays what compensation to the injured party.

Let’s look at an example to get a better idea of how joint liability works. Assume a motorist hit you in a vehicle which had a known safety issue. In this case not only is the motorist liable, but there is a potential that the vehicle manufacturer could be liable as well, if the manufacturer had not taken the proper care to see if the car was roadworthy. In fact, if the safety issue was caused by a part manufactured by another company other than the vehicle maker, this company could be found liable as well.

In the above example, there are three separate entities that could be found liable. What joint liability would determine first is which of the three are legally liable. For simplicity we will assume that all three were found liable. The next step is deciding to what extent each defendant shares the responsibility of harm to the plaintiff. In personal injury law, the share of the responsibility is generally shown by the amount of damages each defendant is required to pay; the more liable you are for the injuries, the higher the compensation you pay.

The above is actually a very simplistic way of explaining joint liability and its effect on personal injury law. In real life it is not as straightforward as the above example. The example is good for giving you a basic idea of how the principal of joint liability works.

If you have been injured and believe more than one entity is responsible, the best thing you can do is speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer. A good personal injury lawyer will be able to help you navigate the often confusing legal situations associated with joint liability in personal injuries cases and will help prepare you for when you are making your personal injury claim.

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