Many accidents and injury claims involve someone breaking the law—for example, injuring someone while trying to rob them, or causing a car accident while driving drunk. Because of this, personal injury law sometimes overlaps with key concepts from criminal law, including the concept of justification.
When someone claims justification, they’re saying they had a good reason to do what they did, even if it was illegal. In some extreme cases, the court will accept the justification for their action, effectively excusing them. Some examples of justification include:
- You trespass on someone else’s property, in order to peacefully retrieve your own belongings.
- You drive faster than the speed limit because you’re rushing someone to the hospital
In most cases, justification will involve either an emergency situation or enforcing some legal right. But there are many common excuses given in court that do not count as justification. These include:
- You didn’t know it was illegal. Normally, ignorance is not an excuse in the courtroom.
- You were angry at the person. Many crimes involve strong emotions, vendettas, or a feeling that the other person was unfair; this does not excuse illegal behavior.
- You thought they were breaking the law. This is a gray area, because you do have a right to self defense. However, using excessive force is not usually justified. For example, if you violently attack someone because you saw them stealing a candy bar, it’s not justified.
How does justification affect personal injury claims?
Justification usually only comes up in personal injury claims when someone is trying to avoid being held responsible for the injury. If you are the victim of the accident, it means someone else’s recklessness or carelessness caused you harm, and they should be liable for the cost. By claiming justification, however, they are saying that what they did was actually the right thing to do. If the court accepts this, it might weaken your claim or even mean you do not receive a financial recovery.
This is not common in personal injury cases. It tends to come up most often in certain types of cases:
- Car accident claims where one party broke the law
- Premises claims (such as a workplace injury), if the party responsible is claiming that they had a good reason not to follow normal safety procedures
- Assaults, where the victim of the assault was (rightly or wrongly) suspected of having committed a crime
These claims can become complex very quickly. We recommend that the victim of any accident should speak to a lawyer. This is even more important if the other party claims their actions were justified.
Have you been involved in an accident? John Foy & Associates offers a free consultation with some of the most experienced and respected personal injury lawyers in Georgia. Fill out the form to your right or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.