Is Wrongful Death Strict Liability?
Establishing liability is an important aspect of any wrongful death case. The word liability is defined as a legal responsibility. In personal injury law, when someone is found liable for an injury or death, he or she is held financially responsible for the other party’s losses.
In most wrongful death cases, the family of the deceased tries to hold the defendant liable for negligence. A wrongful death lawsuit based on negligence requires providing proof that the at-fault party failed to exercise reasonable care which resulted in harm.
However, some wrongful death lawsuits are based on the theory of strict liability. In these situations, the defendant did not mean to cause harm but his or her actions posed an obvious risk.
If you have suffered the loss of a loved one in a preventable accident, the wrongful death attorneys at Phillips Law Group can help you hold the responsible party liable. Contact our law firm today to schedule a free, no-obligation case consultation. Call us at 1-800-706-3000 or complete the free case evaluation form.
What is Strict Liability?
Strict liability is a legal doctrine that holds a party liable for their actions or products without the plaintiff having to prove negligence. In other words, the only thing that needs to be proven is that the action occurred and someone was injured.
The theory of strict liability can be found in both criminal and civil law cases. Strict liability does not apply to every wrongful death case. For example, it does not apply to car, truck, or motorcycle accidents. In these situations, your lawyer will need to establish negligence and provide evidence that the other party caused the accident and death.
What Types of Wrongful Death Cases Are Strict Liability?
In personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, strict liability only applies to the following three situations.
If a company manufactures and distributes a defective product, they are strictly liable for any injuries or deaths that result from the product.
Product liability claims usually fall under one of the following three categories:
- Manufacturing defect: A manufactured product does not meet safety specifications
- Design defect: A product was manufactured according to design specifications but does not meet a consumer’s standard for safety
- Failure to warn: A failure to warn consumers of potential hazards or recommendations for safe usage of the product
Under the strict liability doctrine, the family of the deceased will not need to prove that the manufacturer was reckless or negligent. They can recover damages even if the manufacturer took appropriate care when making the product.
The defendant will need to show that:
- The product was defective or sold in an unreasonably dangerous condition
- The defect or dangerous condition existed at the time it left the manufacturer
- The product was being used as intended
- The use of the product was the cause of death
Strict liability may apply in animal attack cases involving either a domestic animal or a wild animal. Typically, in personal injury lawsuits involving dog bites and other domestic animal attacks, it must be proven that the animal’s owner knew of the dog’s propensity to be dangerous but failed to control the animal.
However, strict liability cases involving domestic animals differ. In these cases, the animal’s owners can be held liable regardless of whether they knew the dog was dangerous and regardless of how the animal came to injure or kill the defendant.
All that is required to prove strict liability is proof that the defendant is the animal’s owner and that the victim was behaving peacefully in a location that is legally permitted. For example, suppose someone was walking in the park when a dog bit or mauled him or her.
The other type of strict liability animal case involves wild animals. Anyone who owns a wild animal, such as a lion, can be held strictly liable for any injury or death the animal causes. For example, the defendant keeps a lion on his property. The victim was jogging on the sidewalk and the lion attacked. The owner of the lion will be strictly liable for the victim’s injuries or death.
It does not need to be shown that the animal’s owner was responsible for allowing the animal to escape, nor that he or she was aware of the animal’s dangerous nature. It only must be proven that the defendant owned the lion and that the lion caused the injury or death.
Abnormally dangerous activities
Under civil law, an activity is considered to be abnormally dangerous if people do not commonly engage in it and there is a high risk of injury, even when practicing reasonable care. What constitutes “abnormally dangerous”? The definition may vary depending on which state you live in.
There are some things that generally are considered to be abnormally dangerous. Examples include the use of explosives, disposing of hazardous waste, or storing radioactive materials.
Other activities that may be considered to be abnormally dangerous include:
- Storing or using explosives
- Burning fields
- Crop dusting
- Mass use of poisons
- Digging canals
In order for a strict liability claim based on abnormally dangerous activities to be successful, the following elements need to be proven:
- The activity is not commonly engaged in
- The activity created a verifiable and foreseeable risk of significant harm
- The activity could not be performed without risk of serious harm regardless of how much care was taken
- The defendant engaged in the activity
- The defendant’s actions were the result of injury or wrongful death
What Damages Can You Recover in a Wrongful Death Strict Liability Case?
The statute of limitations on filing a wrongful death lawsuit varies depending on the state you live in. In Arizona, a person has 2 years from the date of death to submit a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death cases based on strict liability offer the same damages as a case based on negligence.
This could include compensation for:
- Funeral expenses
- Cremation or burial costs
- Medical bills accrued as a result of the event
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of financial support
- Property damage
- Loss of household services
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
Contact an Arizona Wrongful Death Attorney Today
If you have suffered the loss of a loved one in an accident caused by someone else’s actions or inaction, do not hesitate to contact our law firm today. Our compassionate wrongful death lawyers can offer support and legal advice during this difficult time.
At Phillips Legal Group, we understand that no amount of money can compensate for the loss of your loved one. However, a monetary award or settlement can provide you and your family with some financial security as you grieve and take steps to move forward.
Our wrongful death attorneys can investigate the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death, determine whether negligence or strict liability laws apply, and let you know whether or not you have a valid claim to compensation.
Schedule a free case consultation with a member of our legal team today. Our wrongful death lawyers work on a contingency basis. This means that we charge no upfront fees and are paid only if we successfully recover compensation on behalf of you and your family.
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