Hold someone liable for damage

Damage to your vehicle, property, or items is annoying, but not insurmountable. Private individuals and companies can hold each other liable if necessary. If one person or business holds another party responsible for damage suffered, the other party may have to reimburse the costs.

Step by step process →
A damaged car where the owner is being held liable

How does a liability claim work? Step-by-step plan to hold someone accountable

This step-by-step plan shows how to hold the other party liable.

  1. Determine that the other person is liable

    It is important to demonstrate that the other party is at fault. Compensation can only be awarded if there is sufficient evidence of the other party's liability. In the event of your own fault, compensation may also be awarded (by your own insurer).

    Person determining that the other person is liable
  2. Make a list of the damage

    Create a list of all costs incurred to date. Also keep track of any additional costs. This list records all material damage, such as damage to property (which can be expressed directly in monetary value). Consider damage to the car, bicycle or clothing. In addition, costs for medical procedures, travel expenses, lost income and household assistance can also be claimed. Have you suffered personal injury? It is important that you hire a personal injury lawyer.

    woman making a list of damages
  3. Send the liability notice

    Read the section below 'preparing the liability declaration' and follow the further steps. Also, you can use the sample letter 'Material damage' to help you claim material damage. The best way to process a personal injury claim is to use a lawyer.

    Download sample letter (in Dutch) →
    sending a liability notice by mail
  4. Didn't receive any compensation?

    If no compensation is awarded, it is important to seek legal assistance as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you put together an appeal to claim the compensation in question.

    Legal insurance →
    man takes steps after not receiving compensation

Preparing the liability claim

These are the steps that need to be taken when collecting evidence for your liability claim:

  1. If possible, collect photos of the situation at the time. Photos taken with a mobile phone are sufficient;

  2. Write down the names and telephone numbers of witnesses who saw the damage occur;

  3. If necessary, file a report with the police and send the drawn up police report to the insurer;

  4. Draw up a good description of the cause and the situation. Try to do this as quickly as possible, otherwise details may be lost;

  5. If injured, visit a doctor so that physical and psychological consequences are documented. Part of the medical file can possibly be sent to the insurer.

The registered letter

The registered letter is the first step in the event of a liability claim. Please state in this letter:

  1. What happened;

  2. What damaged items there are;

  3. That there may be more damaged items in the future;

  4. That the other party is held liable;

  5. That all damage suffered must be compensated.

Download sample letter (in Dutch) →

In the case of personal injury

In the case of personal injury, there is often a second party that caused the damage. Think of a driver who does not give way in traffic. This party can almost always be held liable. If liability is recognised by the other party's insurer, the damage can be recovered. The costs of a personal injury lawyer can also be included in this compensation.

In the event of personal injury, it is advisable to have the insurance company and, if necessary, a lawyer handle the damage. Holding someone liable yourself is not recommended, because it is often a complicated process.

Debt and risk

Civil law distinguishes between fault liability and strict liability. First of all, it is good to realise that guilt and liability are two different things. In the event of liability, the other party is obliged to compensate for the damage. This is legally established.

Fault liability

Fault liability involves culpability on the part of the person who caused the incident. In some cases there is force majeure. For example, if a motorist causes a collision with a crossing pedestrian. The driver could not reasonably have avoided the collision. Force majeure is difficult to prove; very high standards are imposed, and ‘guilt’ might be the chosen outcome.

Strict liability

With strict liability it does not matter who is 'at fault'. If a certain risk occurs, liability is assumed. Consider liability for buildings: If the damage occurs due to a defect in the building, road, bridge, or other structure, the owner is liable. This is the case even if the owner did not know about the defect.

Another example is the risk for animal owners: where a dog bites a child for example. The owner of the dog is held liable, but is of course not to blame. In this case, the dog owner only owns something for which they are responsible. The owner of the dog is obliged to compensate for the damage.

Important process for liability

Any person who has suffered damage can hold the other party liable. This is done by registered letter. From that moment on we speak of liability. The person who has suffered damage does not have to send the registered letter themselves, their insurance company can handle this aspect of the claim. There are a number of things to pay attention to when claiming liability. As much evidence as possible must be collected. This is because the other party will not admit in all cases that they caused the damage in question.

Exceptions

The legislature has exempted a few groups from liability. Someone else is then liable for the behaviour of a specific person. For example, children under the age of 14 (sometimes 16) are not liable themselves. Employees are often not liable themselves. Mentally disabled people often cannot be held liable themselves. Someone who works on commission is also not personally liable. In these cases, liability rests with the parents, the boss or the supervisor.

The costs of liability

In principle, it costs nothing to hold someone liable. At most the postage stamp and the rate for the registered letter. In the case of personal injury, the personal injury specialist will also ask for compensation, but during the legal procedure, this can be compensated in the event of a positive outcome and awarding of compensation.