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Three Uncommon Defenses To Personal Injury Accusations

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If your negligent acts cause an injury to another person, then it doesn't follow that you will be automatically held liable for the damages. There are defenses you can use to escape blame. Here are three uncommon ones:

Respondeat Superior

Respondeat Superior is a Latin phrase that means "let the master answer." It is used in situations where the employer (master) is held responsible for the wrongful acts of an employee (agent). This is the defense to invoke if you are facing a personal injury charge but believe that it is your employer (rather than you) whom the plaintiff should hold responsible for his or her injuries.

This defense will only work if you caused the injury while engaged in your normal duties. This is because your employer has control in the time, place and manner of your work, but not on other aspects of your life. Therefore, you may claim respondeat superior if you caused an accident while delivering your company products and delivery is part of your job description. However, the defense may not work if you had sneaked out with the company's car to drive your wife to the airport.

Firefighter Rule

Another rare defense is the firefighter rule, which absolves you of blame should a professional rescuer (such as a firefighter) injure himself or herself while rescuing you or dealing with the risk. If the law did not allow this defense, then you would be charged with personal injury if you (negligently) start a fire in your apartment and it causes injuries to emergency responders.

The defense rests on the assumption that emergency responders assume the risk of injury every time they respond to a distress call. Your state's laws determine who is a professional rescuer, but the defense generally covers firefighters and police officers.


If your negligence causes an injury to a social or business guest, then you may be held liable for these injuries. The definition of guest here covers everybody who has your permission, whether implicit or explicit, to be in your property. This includes, for example, a friend who comes to visit or a customer who comes to pick up his or her orders, if you operate a business at home.

However, you shouldn't be held liable if your negligent acts cause injuries to a trespasser on your property. This is the general rule, but there are exceptions. For example, you may still be held liable for a trespasser's injuries if they were caused by your willful and wanton misconduct.

Which defense you use depends on the circumstances that caused the injuries. As hinted above, there may be exceptions that may still make you liable for the personal injury damages. It's always best to retain a seasoned attorney in these circumstances; he or she will help you come up with the best defense depending on your situation.