Understanding Legal Concept Strict Liability

Strict liability means that someone is at fault even if they don’t intend to cause harm. This concept in personal injury makes someone liable for a victim’s damages even if they didn’t do anything wrong. The legal theory of strict liability allows a victim to collect damages without having to show that the other side acted negligently or intentionally to cause harm.

Strict liability is just like it sounds — strict. The jury doesn’t take into account whether the defendant could have or should have done anything differently to avoid the accident. They don’t think about whether the defendant caused the accident on purpose. When a case falls under strict liability, the only things that matter are that the victim got hurt because of something the defendant did.

What Do You Have to Prove to Win a Strict Liability Case?

To win a strict liability case, you must be injured. Second, you must prove that the defendant’s product or actions caused the injury. As long as their conduct resulted in your injuries and the case falls under strict liability rules, you can make a claim for your damages without having to demonstrate fault.

What Types of Cases Are Strict Liability Cases?

There are two types of strict liability cases in Nevada:

Defective Products

When a party manufactures and sells a defective product, they’re strictly liable for any injuries that result from the use of the product. All the victim needs to show in a defective product case is that the defect existed when the product left the manufacturer’s possession. The plaintiff must have used the product in a typical manner.

Abnormally Dangerous Activities

Strict liability also applies when a party undertakes extremely dangerous activities. The first Nevada case that applied strict liability to an ultrahazardous activity was the 1993 case Valentine v. Pioneer Chlor Alkali Co.

Hazardous Chemicals and Strict Liability

In that case, the defendant transported chemicals. Some of the chemicals leaked, and the plaintiffs claimed the leak injured their son. The court said that to determine whether an activity is abnormally dangerous, the jury should look at the likelihood of harm, the risk of harm, whether taking precautions can eliminate the risks, and whether the activity is valuable to the community.

What Cases Are Not Strict Liability Cases?

Most car accident cases require the victim to show that the defendant acted negligently. Other cases might require the victim to show that the defendant acted recklessly or knowingly. Those types of cases aren’t strict liability cases. A case is not strict liability when the plaintiff must prove that the defendant acted wrongfully.

What Can You Recover in a Strict Liability Case?

If you’re hurt in a case that falls under strict liability rules, you can collect for a wide variety of damages. Medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering are just some of the common types of damages that are available in strict liability cases.

Also, punitive damages are often an option in defective product cases. The exact damages available in your case depend on your losses and the complete circumstances of the case.

2017 Case Developments

Nevada’s rules for strict liability continue to evolve and change. In 2017, the defendant in the Ford Motor Co. v. Trejo case asked the court to adopt a risk-utility test for defective product cases. Under the theory, a manufacturer avoids strict liability if their product can’t be designed in a better way considering the risk of harm, the utility of the product, and possible alternative designs.

The Nevada Supreme Court declined to adopt the risk-utility test. The standard for strict liability cases in Nevada remains the consumer expectations test. A manufacturer faces strict liability when their product doesn’t work as expected.

Why Do Strict Liability Rules Exist?

Strict liability rules exist because the courts think that it’s only fair for someone to foot the bill when they make a defective product or engage in very dangerous activities. They believe that the manufacturer has more to do with the product than the victim. If someone has to foot the bill for the victim’s losses, it’s fairer to make the manufacturer pay than it is for the victim to suffer without compensation.

Also, in strict liability cases, the plaintiff may not be in a good position to prove what the defendant did wrong to cause the accident. The defendant is usually in control of the evidence, and they may not want to share it. Because it’s fair for the manufacturer to cover the victim’s losses and because of the difficulties that arise when the evidence is in the defendant’s control, the courts say that strict liability rules promote justice.

If My Case Is Strict Liability, What Does That Mean for Me?

If your case is a strict liability case, you don’t have to spend your time proving fault. You don’t need to examine how the accident occurred, and you don’t need to spend your time showing the jury where the defendant went wrong. Instead, all you need to show is that you’re hurt because of the defendant’s actions.

When strict liability applies, the victim can focus all of their efforts on proving their damages. They must all show the connection between the defendant’s product or dangerous activity and their injuries. From the victim’s perspective, when strict liability applies to the case, there’s one less thing to worry about. However, it’s still important to carefully prepare for all of the remaining elements to prove the case to the satisfaction of the jury.

How Can An Injury Attorney Help?

An experienced qualified personal injury attorney can examine your case to see what standard applies. In the circumstance when strict liability applies, your attorney can help build the necessary evidence that will present your case in the best light.

If another standard applies, your attorney can offer expert insight to help you understand what you need to prove your case in light of the specific circumstances. At each stage of your case, a qualified lawyer will explain how the law applies, and work with you to maximize your potential recovery.