Strict liability is a legal principle that holds an individual or entity responsible for damages caused by their actions, regardless of whether they were negligent.
This concept is often used in personal injury law and can be applied in cases involving defective products, dangerous animals, and other situations where the defendant’s conduct was not necessarily wrongful. Below we discuss the concept of strict liability and how to use it in personal injury cases.
Under strict product liability, you must prove:
- The defendant participated in the product’s distribution chain (as a manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer);
- The product included a design defect, a manufacturing defect, or inadequate safety warnings before it left the defendant’s possession;
- The product was unreasonably dangerous because of its defect;
- The plaintiff did not misuse the product;
- The plaintiff suffered a physical injury; and
- The product defect was a substantial cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
You can also file a negligence claim, but the elements of such a claim are different from the elements stated above and may not apply, given the facts of the situation.
Some states apply a “one bite rule” to dog bites. Under most circumstances, Florida does not. Instead, the owner is strictly liable even if the dog had never before shown any aggressive tendencies.
There are some exceptions to this “zero bite rule,” however. Circumstances under which you must prove fault to hold a dog owner liable for a dog bite injury include:
- In most cases where the victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s property;
- When the victim was a postal employee or another government employee who had the right to be on the dog owner’s property even without an invitation;
- Injuries inflicted by on-duty military and police dogs; and
- Injuries suffered by kennel workers, veterinarians, or professional dog handlers.
Dog owners also have certain defenses available to them.
Florida law imposes strict liability upon parties that engage in ultra-hazardous activities, such as:
- Handling and storing of explosive materials;
- Use of pesticides and other hazardous chemicals;
- Blasting and mining operations;
- Keeping dangerous animals, such as venomous snakes or crocodiles;
- Pollution and contamination of land, water, and air;
- Operating an amusement park;
- Building and construction activities;
- Transporting dangerous goods;
- Handling and disposing of hazardous waste; and
- Operating nuclear power plants.
This list is not necessarily exclusive.
What Constitutes an “Abnormally Dangerous Activity?”
Ultimately, a court will decide whether a particular activity is “abnormally dangerous” by weighing the following factors:
- The degree of danger to person or property posed by the activity;
- The magnitude of the likelihood of significant harm;
- The difficulty of eliminating the danger by exercising reasonable care;
- How common the activity is;
- Whether the activity was appropriate for its location; and
- Whether the danger of the activity exceeds its value to the community.
Courts enjoy the discretion to decide based on an ultra-hazardous activity case based on the “totality of the circumstances.”
Defenses Against Strict Liability
Florida law includes the following defenses against strict liability claims. Not all of these defenses apply to every strict liability claim.
Assumption of the Risk
Under the assumption of the risk doctrine, you cannot recover damages for your injuries if you understood the risks of the activity and voluntarily assumed it. That is why so many dangerous activities, such as skydiving, require you to sign a waiver of liability.
The Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is a law that limits the time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. Its purpose is to avoid clogging the courts with old claims that rely on stale evidence. In Florida, personal injury claimants typically have four years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. Exceptions do apply in limited circumstances.
If you fail to file a lawsuit or finalize a settlement agreement before the statute of limitations deadline expires, you lose the right to file a lawsuit. If you try, the defendant can use the statute of limitations to have the judge dismiss your lawsuit. Without the ability to maintain a lawsuit, you will have no bargaining power to seek a private settlement.
Some defenses to strict liability claims apply only to certain types of claims. The provocation defense, for example, arises when a plaintiff asserting a dog bite claim provoked the dog into biting them.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a Fort Walton Beach Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have been injured by the wrongful act or omission of someone else, it is important that you seek professional legal help as soon as possible. A personal injury attorney can help you navigate the process of filing a claim and ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. Most personal injury lawyers won’t charge you any attorney’s fees unless they collect compensation for you, as well.