In personal injury lawsuits in which more than one defendant is named as negligent and therefore liable for damages, there are three types of liability that can be established:
- Joint liability
- Severe liability
- Joint and severe liability
Joint and severe liability claims are lawsuits in which the claimant (plaintiff) attempts to show that all parties named as defendants in the claim responsible for the injuries incurred, without requiring the defendant to define a level or pre-defined responsibility to each defendant. Even when such an assertion is made at the initiation of the claim, the outcome of the lawsuit and the assignment of liability for damages may change.
This assignment of liability combines joint and severe liability to impose the most stringent assignment of damages possible in a personal injury claim to all defendants named in the lawsuit.
To fully understand joint and severe liability, you must also understand the two types of liability which are combined to establish this form. Joint liability means each defendant named in the claim can potentially end up being held responsible for the entirety of the damages awarded. In severe liability claims, each defendant may be held liable only for his or her proportionate or respective amount of damages.
When combined, joint and severe liability therefore allows each defendant to be held at least to severe liability in the claim, and up to and including, joint liability. In other words, each defendant may be assigned a particular portion of liability at the initiation of the claim, but may end up being held liable for the full amount of damages awarded in a successful lawsuit.