According to Black’s Law Dictionary, justification is the legal term for arguing to the court that what you did was necessary, and therefore justified. Justification denies that what you did was wrong. In fact, some would argue that you did the right thing, even though, without justification, you would be legally responsible for any harm your actions directly caused.

How Does Justification Affect a Personal Injury Claim?

Justification only rarely affects personal injury claims; it comes up much more often in criminal cases.

To be liable in a personal injury case, all three of these factors must be true:

  1. You have a legal duty toward someone.
  2. You breach that legal duty.
  3. Your breach of duty (also called “negligence”) causes measurable harm to that person.

If you claim justification, you are saying that you were not negligent and that you did nothing wrong. You could not be liable if you were not negligent. If for example, a carjacking victim intentionally crashes his car to draw the attention of the nearby police, he may argue that the situation justified his actions.

On the other hand, if you are the injured party and the person who harmed you claims justification, you might end up getting less money for your injuries that you otherwise would have, possibly even nothing.The party who hurt you will ask the judge not to hold her responsible for the consequences of her actions. If the judge grants her request, the judge will not consider her to be at fault in the incident.

What Is the Difference Between Justification and Excuse?

When you argue that you had a justification for your action, you are claiming that you did no wrong under the circumstances. For example, Bob struck Tom, but claims he had justification for his actions, as Tom was hitting him repeatedly and Bob merely defended himself. If Tom makes a claim against Bob for his injuries, Bob can claim justification for his actions.

Excuse, on the other hand, is an admission that you did a wrongful act, but that the court should excuse you from blame and the consequences of it. Some common reasons for excuse include youth, mental illness, or reasonable reliance on incorrect information. For instance, when a man who thinks his wife is in labor drives fast and recklessly to get her to the hospital, only to discover it was false labor. If his frenzied driving causes an accident, he might plead that his behavior was wrong, but he should have protection from responsibility for the accident under the doctrine of excuse.

What Should You Do if Justification Is an Issue in Your Personal Injury Claim?

You should talk with a lawyer right away if justification is an issue in your personal injury claim. The attorneys at Berger and Green offer free consultations and claim evaluations. Call us at 412-661-1400 today.