Civil liability establishes that whoever has caused damage to a third party has the obligation to repair it.

However, this responsibility can be objective or subjective, depending on whether or not you are the cause of it. Let’s clarify these terms and see when each of them occurs.

Objective and Subjective Civil Liability

The fundamental difference between the two is the subjectivity or not of the assessment of guilt.

In the case of objective civil liability, without being the cause of the damage, one is responsible for it, generally because there was the possibility of avoiding it. In the subjective, one is the cause of guilt for having caused it directly.

It is very important to be able to define who is the individual who has generated an accident in order to establish fault and who is responsible for it, who will be in charge of paying the corresponding compensation to the injured party.

What is Objective Civil Liability?

It is the civil responsibility that occurs when a person has the obligation to respond, compensate or indemnify another for damage, whether or not he is guilty or negligent of it.

And, although he can avoid that responsibility if it is shown that the mishap was caused by an act of force majeure, a determining event by a third party or the recklessness of the victim.

This type of liability is not linked to the fault or negligence with which the individual has acted, but to the imminent risk of the activity that has been carried out, such as driving motor vehicles, owning animals or industrial work and technology, among others.

Objective Civil Liability according to the Civil Code

There are several articles of the Civil Code that establish when a person is considered to have strict civil liability:

  • The owner of an animal is responsible for the damages that it causes, even if it escapes or is lost.
  • The owner of a hunting enclosure will be liable for the damage caused by it on neighboring land, when he has not done what is necessary to avoid such accidents or when he has made it difficult for the owners of those lands to avoid them.
  • The owner of a building is responsible for the damages that result from the ruin of all or part of it, if this occurs due to a lack of the necessary repairs for its maintenance.
  • The owner for the damages caused by the explosion of machines that had not been adequately cared for and by the ignition of explosive substances that were not placed in a safe and appropriate place; due to excessive fumes that are harmful to people or property; by the fall of trees placed in transit sites, when it is not caused by force majeure; and by the emanations of sewers or deposits of infective materials, built without the adequate precautions to the place where they were.
  • The architect or builder of a building if the damage to said property was the result of a construction defect.
  • The owner of the house for the damages caused by things that are thrown or fall from it to the outside.

Examples of Objective Civil Liability

There are many everyday cases in which objective civil liability is established. For example, if I have a dog in my care and it runs away from home and bites another person, I will have to compensate them.

The same happens when it is a child who commits an act that causes damage, as if he is playing with a stone and scratches the body of a parked vehicle.

Likewise, if I have a garden in my house with a fruit tree that I am in charge of pruning properly, but even so a branch protrudes from the farm and some of its fruit falls on a passerby, breaking his glasses, I will have to compensate him.

In the industrial sphere, this type of liability is also frequent.

Thus, if a small fire occurs in the yard of a factory that damages the adjoining property, caused by the storage of flammable products exposed to high temperatures, the business owner will have to take charge of the corresponding compensation.

What is Subjective Civil Liability?

It is civil liability in which the person who directly caused the damage is to blame for repairing it.

This is so because the damages caused have been derived from the human action of guilt, negligence or fraud and its interpretation is completely subjective by the parties that analyze and define the guilt (judges, intermediaries…).

Fault in Subjective Civil Liability

For the attribution of subjective civil liability, the most important aspect to take into account is the guilt or negligence of the person causing the damage.

So that any act or omission carried out knowingly and consciously and causing harm to a third person, you must repair it.

The cases of subjective civil liability not only respond to illegal acts, such as the omission of laws and regulations of habitual use, but also to other aspects derived from imprudence and negligence when carrying out an activity.

Examples of Subjective Civil Liability

There are multiple examples in which subjective civil liability occurs. It is very common for this to take place while we are driving a car and, for example, we miss a stop and hit another vehicle.

Or we attend to the mobile behind the wheel and cause an accident. In these cases, the fault or negligence of the cause of the damage is very well appreciated, who will have to take charge of the subsequent compensation.

But subjective civil liability also occurs in other everyday cases. Thus, if, for example, a neighbour does not carry out the pertinent inspections and repairs of the pipes in his house for years and this causes humidity in the lower floor, he will have to take care of the pertinent repairs.


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