When you are pursuing a personal injury claim, the party that caused your injuries will usually have direct liability for your losses. In Ohio, direct liability requires the responsible party to compensate the victim for financial and non-financial damages.
However, there are cases in which other parties could also have potential liability for your injuries. Ohio law permits accident victims to seek indirect liability claims depending on the facts and circumstances of the claim. When applicable, indirect liability can play a crucial role in your personal injury case.
What Is Indirect Liability (Secondary Liability)?
The legal definition of indirect liability is the responsibility of an entity for the actions of a third party. Also known as secondary liability, this type of liability is often applied in intellectual property cases in which a party facilitates the infringement of another party. Secondary liability can also arise when a supervisory party is responsible for and has control over the actions of its subordinates or associates.
Examples of Indirect Liability for Personal Injuries
Many personal injury cases could include an indirect liability claim. Common examples of indirect liability for personal injuries include:
- Employer liability for employee negligence. In Ohio, an employer is "vicariously liable" for the negligent acts of their employees that occur within the scope of their employment. Vicarious liability is a type of indirect liability. For example, if you are the victim of a truck accident, the trucking company may be indirectly liable if the truck driver was working when the incident occurred. Or in the case of medical malpractice, the hospital may be responsible for the actions of the physician or other personnel.
- Manufacturer liability for defective products. An investigation of your car accident may reveal that the responsible party lost control of their vehicle due to a faulty component such as the brakes or steering wheel. As a result, the vehicle manufacturer could be indirectly liable because a product defect caused the accident.
- Government liability for unsafe road conditions. Ohio law requires the government to ensure the safety of public roads. If a car accident occurs because a driver swerves to avoid a road hazard or a poorly protected construction zone, the government may be held indirectly liable.
- Dog keeper/harborer liability for bites. Dog keepers and harborers can be indirectly liable for dog bites under Ohio law if they are responsible for allowing the attack. For example, a kennel that fails to prevent a dog from biting a customer may be at least partially responsible for the victim's injuries.
- Subcontractor liability for work injuries. In Ohio, employees eligible for worker's compensation generally cannot file personal injury claims against their employer. However, these employees can sue subcontractors and other companies responsible for creating a hazardous work environment.
When an Indirect Liability Claim Makes Sense in a Personal Injury Case
If you are filing a personal injury claim against a directly liable party, you may question the necessity of indirect liability. There are two main situations in which you should file an indirect liability claim.
The Directly Liable Party Has Inadequate or No Insurance Coverage
Many drivers in Ohio only have the minimum insurance coverage required under state law, which is currently $25,000. If one of these drivers is responsible for your car accident, their insurance payments will be insufficient to cover the costs of severe injuries.
Furthermore, some drivers do not have any insurance coverage despite Ohio's insurance requirements. Many pet owners also do not have insurance that covers an attack (such as a dog bite). When the at-fault party is uninsured, an indirect liability claim may be the only option for you to recover compensation for your injuries.
The Directly Liable Party Isn't 100% Liable
Under Ohio law, a party with less than 50% liability for a victim's injuries cannot be held 100% responsible for the losses. This is known as joint and several liability. In this situation, you must file additional claims to recover maximum compensation.
Understanding the Limitation of Liability Clause
Many companies have policies in place to minimize risk and potential liability. One of the most common examples is a limitation of liability clause in contracts.
A limitation of liability clause is essential for businesses because it clearly outlines their duty of care and scope of liability for a breach occurring within the contract period. Depending on how it is drafted, this clause can limit or even eliminate another party's right to recover damages. Here is an example of a limitation of liability clause:
Limitations of Liability. Buyer agrees, to the fullest extent permitted by law, to limit the liability of Seller to Buyer for any and all claims, losses, costs, expenses, or damages of any nature whatsoever, from any cause or causes, so that the total aggregate liability of Seller to Buyer shall not exceed $100,000.
Direct and Indirect Damages
When a party breaches its contractual duties, the non-breaching party can recover two types of damages: direct and indirect.
Direct damages are losses that naturally occur due to the breaching party's non-performance. For example, direct damages would include the costs a distributor must pay its customers for goods a manufacturer failed to deliver.
Indirect damages, also known as special damages, are damages that the contracting parties would reasonably expect the non-breaching party to incur due to their knowledge of the agreement. Indirect damages can be incidental or consequential.
Incidental vs. Consequential Damages Explained
Incidental damages are associated expenses incurred by the non-breaching party to avoid further losses caused by the breach, such as additional labor costs. On the other hand, consequential damages are losses unique to the non-breaching party's circumstances, like lost profits or loss of goodwill.
Both incidental and consequential damages are not reasonably foreseeable and not easy to quantify. In addition, some of these damages can be substantial, such as lost profits and attorney fees. For these reasons, incidental and consequential damages are usually excluded in limitation of liability clauses.
Find Out How Our Services Can Help
Are you wondering if indirect liability applies to your Cincinnati personal injury case? If so, contact The Moore Law Firm. Its team of experienced personal injury lawyers can help you maximize the compensation you receive for your injuries.
To request a free consultation, contact The Moore Law Firm today.