What Is Foreseeability and How Does It Apply to Personal Injury Cases?

Several elements play roles in personal injury cases – legal concepts, such as duty, negligence, causation, and harm all help determine whether a plaintiff is eligible for compensation for his or her injuries, pain, and suffering. Another important aspect that applies to some personal injury cases is the concept of foreseeability. What does this concept mean, and how might it affect a personal injury claim?

What Is “Foreseeability?”

A personal injury attorney my use the concept foreseeability, a legal term, to determine a cause of an accident and hence the liability a person may carry for an act of negligence that gave rise to injury. When determining whether negligence occurred, an attorney may employ the foreseeability test, which essentially asks if a reasonable person would have foreseen the potential consequences of his or her actions.

Foreseeability can apply to any number of personal injury cases, from product liability claims to car accidents. One of the easiest examples of foreseeability involves texting and driving or drunken driving. Based on the amount of public knowledge surrounding the dangers of these actions, a person can reasonably infer that participating in them would lead to injury. A texting or drunk driver will likely be liable for any civil damages he or she causes, since the average person understands these actions are dangerous.

In other cases, however, it’s more difficult to establish foreseeability. If a person has a medical condition that causes an accident, for example, his or her actions may have been foreseeable. If a driver knows that a pre-existing medical condition makes him or her vulnerable to seizures, he or she may be liable for any damages that result. On the other hand, if a person experiences a seizure for the first time behind the wheel, his or her actions may not pass the foreseeability test.

Another common example might involve use of prescription drugs. If a well-documented side effect of a prescription drug is drowsiness, then a reasonable person would know that an accident might occur. On the other hand, if a person experiences a rare or undocumented side effect of a new prescription drug, he or she may not foresee the possibility of an accident.

How Will the Foreseeability Test Affect a Personal Injury Claim?

The foreseeability test can lead to points of contention in a personal injury proceeding. As outlined above, the foreseeability of the consequences of a person’s actions are clear-cut in many instances. In others, however, establishing liability might not be so simple.

When it’s difficult or impossible to establish foreseeability, the next option for legal recourse is to file a claim with a driver’s own insurance company to compensate for any damages. Unfortunately, if a person cannot establish foreseeability, he or she may have limited legal options. This highlights the need for an experienced attorney to defend an injured person’s rights and determine who is responsible for the accident.

Where Does Foreseeability Apply?

The foreseeability test may apply to many aspects of personal injury law. The exception is cases involving strict liability – in these cases, a person will be liable for any injuries he or she causes, whether those actions were foreseeable (dog bites and some product liability claims follow a rule of strict liability). In general, foreseeability applies to things like car accidents, premises liability claims, pedestrian accidents, accidents involving negligent security, and more.

Establishing the foreseeability of a defendant’s actions is an essential part of determining liability in an accident. An experienced Riverside personal injury attorney can help define foreseeability and hold a party accountable for negligence

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