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What is Absolute Liability?
Everything You Need to Know

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Absolute liability is also known as strict liability. It is a legal doctrine that holds a person or company responsible for damages due to fault elements, even if they took every precaution to avoid them. 

As a personal injury attorney, I have represented many clients who have been victims of strict liability torts, and in this article, I will explain how these torts work.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • An absolute liability offense is a crime that only requires the prosecutor to prove that an unlawful act happened, not that the defendant had any form of intent
  • Absolute liability can also be called strict liability
  • Suing for absolute liability is a good course of action for the injured party

What Is Absolute Liability?

Two lawyers discussing a book while holding pensAbsolute liability is when someone is responsible for something terrible that happened, even if they weren't negligent. Usually, this happens when the owner, employer, or manufacturer of something is responsible [1].

Absolute liability can also be called strict liability. This happens when a manufacturer of a product that isn't defective is responsible for any damage that results from using the product.

It is also a standard of legal liability found in tort and criminal law of various legal jurisdictions. 

Instances of Absolute Liability

Absolute liability applies when there are a lot of risks and physical elements of risk involved in an activity. This means that the person or company taking the risk can be held responsible for any damage or harm, even if they were not negligent.

The best remedy to prevent this is getting absolute liability insurance coverage. This will protect your practice if someone sues you for medical malpractice. This is especially important if you work in high-risk areas like thoracic surgery.

You can find absolute liability insurance premiums that will reduce the risk of this happening, but it is important to compare different options and find the best one for you. 

"Absolute liability is responsibility without fault or negligence. Absolute liability crimes can be punished without finding men's rea (state of mind/criminal intent)."
- Stephen G. Rodriguez, Criminal Defence Attorney


When Would You Not Be Liable?

A person reading a book while thinking

Based on my experience, there are some situations where you would not be held liable under an absolute liability offense.

These include:

  • If the unlawful act was done by someone else without your knowledge or consent
  • If you can prove that you took all reasonable steps to prevent the criminal act from happening
  • If the law says that you don't have to take reasonable steps to prevent the criminal act, and you didn't
  • If the law says that the offense is not an absolute liability offense 

Keep in mind that the offender is unable to utilize due diligence or mens rea defenses (guilty mind) when there is a complete liability. Owners of pools and wild animals, as well as sellers of explosives and weapons, are examples of people or organizations with full responsibility.

3 Main Categories of Absolute Liability

A lawyer reading a book on his table

There are three main categories of absolute liability crimes.

1. Animals, Ownership or Possession

If an animal causes injury to someone or another animal, the owner or person who has control of the animal is responsible. This may include livestock like cows, horses, bulls, and goats. It also includes abnormally dangerous animals like snakes, tigers, bears, and monkeys. 

You may think that wild animals are omitted because they live in the wild and are not owned by anyone. But, if you have a pet monkey that bites someone, you can be held absolutely liable.

2. Acts That Can Be Dangerous for Other People

If you do something that is very risky and could hurt other people or their property, you can be held liable even if you didn't mean to do anything wrong.

Here is what the court will consider dangerous acts:

  • This activity is hazardous and could cause harm to a person, their belongings, or their property.
  • There is a good chance that something terrible will happen if you do this.
  • It is difficult to prevent the risk from happening even if you take reasonable precautions.
  • The act is not commonly recognized.
  • Carrying out the task in this particular location is not appropriate.
  • Whether this project's benefits to the community are worth the risks involved.

3. Product Liability

If you manufacture, sell, or distribute a product, you can be held liable if the product is defective and causes injury. This includes defective products that are not safe for their intended use. 

For example, you can be held liable if you sell a toy for children under three with small parts that can be swallowed.

The court will consider the following when determining if a product is defective:

  • The design of the defective product
  • The manufacturing of the defective product
  • The warnings and instructions that came with the product
  • Whether the customer used the product in a way that was not intended

Related Articles:

See all related product liability lawsuits we've taken on.


What are some examples of absolute liability?

Some examples of absolute liability are owning an animal that injures someone, using fireworks or blasting rocks with dynamite.

What is another name for absolute liability?

Another name for absolute liability is strict liability.

What are absolute liability and strict liability?

"Absolute liability" and "Strict liability" are often used as synonyms. They both refer to a situation where someone can be held liable for damages even if they had no intention f causing the injuries.

The Bottom Line

Absolute liability is a legal term that refers to a situation where someone can be held liable for damages even if they did not intend to cause the injuries. There are three main categories of absolute liability: animals, acts that can be dangerous for other people, and product liability.

Suppose you're not sure whether or not you would be held liable in a particular situation. In that case, you should speak to Schmidt & Clark's team of experienced personal injury attorneys in a free consultation. We can help you understand your rights and whether there is enough proof of the breach for you to file a claim.



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