What Is a Strict Liability Tort and in What Instances Is It Used?
If you’ve suffered a personal injury through no fault of your own, you may be wondering what recourse you have available. An incident causing personal injury can often be traumatic, resulting in pain, expensive medical procedures, and even emotional trauma.
Warren Allen LLP wants to assist you in recouping the cost of those medical expenses and the pain and suffering you may have endured as a result. The process can be lengthy, complex, and involve specialized legalese with which you may not be entirely familiar, so it’s always recommended to enlist the assistance of a Portland personal injury attorney. But it’s always good to understand the vocabulary.
For instance, personal injury law typically involves the legal doctrine known as strict liability tort. We’ll outline for you exactly what it means and break down in what instances it’s most often used.
Strict Liability Tort Defined
Let’s break down this concept into parts. We’ll first start with tort. This term typically refers to a wrongful act that causes harm to another and for which relief may be sought in civil court through a compensatory award, commonly referred to as damages, or an injunction. Most civil lawsuits are based on tort law, with the exception of contractual disputes, which are governed by contract law.
Strict liability, in a sense, has to do with the mindset of the person whose actions caused the harm or loss. For instance, you may have heard the term “intent” used in criminal law. If a person is charged with murder, for example, a prosecutor often tries to establish that the defendant planned the crime and intended to kill the victim.
If the defendant did not intend to harm the victim, however (perhaps the death was due to negligence or recklessness rather than caused by willful action, for instance), then the defendant may be charged with a lesser crime, such as involuntary manslaughter. In this case, involuntary refers to the fact that the responsible party did not intend for the death to occur.
Strict liability, on the other hand, focuses on the responsible party’s actions rather than the intent behind them. In fact, when strict liability tort is applied, a person’s intent is not taken into consideration when deciding whether or not the person is liable for inflicting the harm.
In other words, if a person commits a harmful act, a court can find them liable for that act without a finding of fault. Even though there may have been no ill intent or negligence on the part of the responsible party, that person can still be held liable for the damage the harmful action caused. The main issue at play when strict liability tort is applied is whether the person or party to the suit is responsible for the harm or loss.
In What Instances Is It Used?
To give you a better idea of how and when strict liability tort is used, we’ll walk you through a few examples.
Let’s start with criminal law. Most traffic offenses hold that the offending party is strictly liable for the offense regardless of whether or not they intended to break the law.
Let’s say, for instance, your car’s speedometer stops working and you’ve been unable to get into the repair shop to have it fixed. You’re going 50 in an area with a posted speed limit of 40 because you’re none the wiser. You’re simply following traffic. You will likely be ticketed for speeding, regardless of how fast everyone else on the road was traveling since most traffic offenses employ the use of strict liability.
Strict liability tort is often used in civil cases as well, particularly personal injury cases. A couple of examples include animal attacks and product defects. For instance, let’s say someone lets their dog out into the backyard to relieve itself. While the dog is outside, it somehow escapes through a hole in the fence. You see the dog running loose around the neighborhood and try to approach it to get the owner’s name and phone number off the dog tag. But as you get closer, the dog attacks.
You may be entitled to compensatory damages in the state of Oregon if the dog’s owner had preexisting knowledge that the animal was dangerous. The owner may have never intended for the dog to escape from the backyard and perhaps was never even aware that the dog left the yard in the first place. But under strict liability tort, the owner could be held responsible for the injuries the dog inflicted if there was reason to believe that the dog had a propensity for the dangerous behavior.
Strict liability tort is also used in many product defect cases. The defect may occur during the production process (known as a manufacturer’s defect) or be caused by a deficiency in the product’s original design (considered a design defect).
Under Oregon law, if you are able to establish that the product was unreasonably dangerous or that the manufacturer had a responsibility to warn about the dangers of using the product and failed to do so, you may be entitled to compensatory damages. If you’re working out on a treadmill, for instance, and the machine malfunctions, causing you serious injury, then you may be entitled to a compensatory award.
Work With a Professional
Of course, these are just examples, and the legal complexities of such cases can become quite convoluted. That’s why it’s well worth it to work with an experienced attorney. It’s also important to keep in mind that, just as there is a statute of limitations in many criminal cases, you are also bound by time constraints when it comes to filing a personal injury lawsuit. If you were injured and believe that you may be entitled to compensation, speak with a qualified attorney soon.
If you would like to consult with a Portland personal injury attorney, give Warren Allen LLP a call. We will help you get the best resolution possible and receive the compensation you deserve.