Imagine you are walking along a public sidewalk next to someone’s home and you happen to slip and fall on the ice and injure yourself. Who can you sue as a result of this slip and fall?
Note that this overview is very generalized, and does not cover the full range and depth of possible liability issues that might arise on any given file. Liability can be complex and liability issues may have a significant impact on a personal injury file. If you have been involved in a collision or accident, contact a personal injury lawyer to learn more about your legal rights and options.
What is “liability”? And what does it mean to be “liable”?
Liability is a legal concept. Together with quantum, it is one of the central issues in tort law, of which personal injury is a part.
Essentially, liability is a question of whether someone should be held responsible, in law, for an action or inaction which caused injury, loss, or damage. Legal responsibility is a distinct concept and may not always align with one’s sense of moral responsibility or perception of factual responsibility. Liability in tort law is also distinct from findings of guilt or culpability in criminal matters, and the two should not be confused.
Therefore, to be liable in tort law is to be legally responsible for causing damage, injury or loss to another person. Generally speaking, if a court finds that a wrongdoer is liable, the wrongdoer is obliged, at least to some extent, to pay damages to the injured person.
Who determines liability?
Sometimes, the wrongdoer, or their insurance company (see our blog post on subrogation here), will admit that they are liable for the incident that caused the injured person to sustain loss, injury, or damage. If the wrongdoer accepts responsibility in this way, the main concern usually then becomes quantum.
Sometimes, the wrongdoer may admit to some liability but also argue that the injured person is also liable for their losses or injuries to some extent (such as with contributory negligence), or argue that they are liable only for some of the losses experienced by the injured party (such as if the injured party failed to
mitigate their losses
1. The driver of the vehicle is presumed to be at fault.
Ordinarily, in car accident litigation, the injured party or “plaintiff” has the legal burden to prove that the driver of the other car was negligent or that their conduct was improper. However, this is not the case where the plaintiff was a pedestrian or cyclist who was hit by a car. In pedestrian and cyclist collisions, the driver of the vehicle is presumed to be negligent, unless the driver can demonstrate that their negligence was not the sole/only cause of the pedestrian or cyclist’s injuries or losses.
2. But they may argue that you were contributorily negligent.
Under the Traffic Safety Act, the driver is presumed to be at fault and to have been negligent, as described above. However, the driver (or their insurance company or lawyer) can still argue a concept known as contributory negligence. This means that even if the driver was negligent and their negligence caused the accident, the pedestrian or cyclist could still be held partially responsible for the collision if the pedestrian or cyclist failed to take reasonable steps to look out for their own safety. For example, a pedestrian could be held to be partly responsible and contributorily negligent for their own injuries if they were crossing the road in an unsafe and unreasonable manner, such as if they were unaware of their surroundings. Or for example, a court could rule that a cyclist is partly responsible for their own injuries and losses if they were not wearing a helmet and they suffered from a head injury that a helmet could have prevented.
3. You may be eligible for benefits and coverage for treatments through the vehicle owner’s insurance.
As a part of every car insurance policy in Alberta, there is a bit of coverage known as “
There are many different car insurance providers and many different policy add-ons and features to consider. However, there are generally 3 main potential parts to your car insurance policy:
- Section A (liability insurance) – this is the part of your policy that would kick in when you are at fault to cover the damage or injuries that you cause (with some exceptions).
- Section B (accidents benefits) – this part must be included in your policy by law, and offers you some basic coverage for medical care and disability benefits when you are injured in a car accident regardless of whose fault the accident is (with some exceptions). Section B also covers passengers in your car at the time of the accident.
- Section C – this part is optional (and if you have it you have what is called comprehensive coverage), and it is the part of your policy that would pay for damages to your own car if you were involved in an accident (with some exceptions).
If you have been
injured in a car accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence