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PERSONAL INJURY: Liability – No “Guilt” or “Innocence”

Liability is not "guilt"
No “guilty” or “innocent” in civil law. Liability, Yes.

“Guilt” and “Innocence” exist in criminal law, not civil negligence law.

Concepts of guilt or innocence refer only to criminal matters, where an individual faces prosecution by the government at some level.  Even in an accident caused, allegedly, by a person running a red light, the light runner is not “guilty” in a civil lawsuit.  Worst case scenario: if there is a court judgment against the light runner, they’re found liable.  Not “guilty”.

Separate and aside from the fact that the light runner may have, on another day, received a citation and been deemed responsible or even guilty in that context, there is no guilt or innocence in civil disputes.

Language explains roles.  A person against whom a lawsuit is brought is called “defendant.”  The one bringing suit is labeled “plaintiff”.  Before a court suit, insurance companies call the injured person “the claimant”.  By comparison “the insured” refers to the individual who caused or may have caused the injury.  Phrases like “bad actor” or the “negligent party” paint the picture of the target person whose conduct is measured against the reasonable person standard in legal cases written by courts and studied by attorneys.

The conclusion of a civil case results in a finding of liability or no liability for the driver who faced accusations of running the light or the physician who performed the procedure at question.  There is a finding of liability or no liability.  There is no guilt or innocence.  There is no finding of guilty or not guilty in a civil case.


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Attorney Myers is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association, Massachusetts Academy of Trial Lawyers, and New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association. The Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers offer a broad range of legal services in personal injury cases in Massachusetts (MA) and New Hampshire (NH) areas.

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