Contingent Liability

Definition of 'Contingent Liability'


A potential obligation that may be incurred depending on the outcome of a future event. A contingent liability is one where the outcome of an existing situation is uncertain, and this uncertainty will be resolved by a future event. A contingent liability is recorded in the books of accounts only if the contingency is probable and the amount of the liability can be estimated.

Investopedia explains 'Contingent Liability'


Outstanding lawsuits and product warranties are common examples of contingent liabilities.

For example, a company may be facing a lawsuit from a rival firm for patent infringement. If the company's legal department thinks that the rival firm has a strong case, and the company estimates that the damages payable if the rival firm wins the case are $2 million, it would book a contingent liability of this amount on its balance sheet. If, on the other hand, the company's legal department is of the opinion that the lawsuit is frivolous and very unlikely to be won by the rival company, no contingent liability would be necessary.



comments powered by Disqus
Hot Definitions
  1. Benchmark Bond

    A bond that provides a standard against which the performance of other bonds can be measured. Government bonds are almost always used as benchmark bonds. Also referred to as "benchmark issue" or "bellwether issue".
  2. Market Capitalization

    The total dollar market value of all of a company's outstanding shares. Market capitalization is calculated by multiplying a company's shares outstanding by the current market price of one share. The investment community uses this figure to determine a company's size, as opposed to sales or total asset figures.
  3. Oil Reserves

    An estimate of the amount of crude oil located in a particular economic region. Oil reserves must have the potential of being extracted under current technological constraints. For example, if oil pools are located at unattainable depths, they would not be considered part of the nation's reserves.
  4. Joint Venture - JV

    A business arrangement in which two or more parties agree to pool their resources for the purpose of accomplishing a specific task. This task can be a new project or any other business activity. In a joint venture (JV), each of the participants is responsible for profits, losses and costs associated with it.
  5. Aggregate Risk

    The exposure of a bank, financial institution, or any type of major investor to foreign exchange contracts - both spot and forward - from a single counterparty or client. Aggregate risk in forex may also be defined as the total exposure of an entity to changes or fluctuations in currency rates.
  6. Organic Growth

    The growth rate that a company can achieve by increasing output and enhancing sales. This excludes any profits or growth acquired from takeovers, acquisitions or mergers. Takeovers, acquisitions and mergers do not bring about profits generated within the company, and are therefore not considered organic.
Trading Center