When Does Foreseeability Matter In An Injury Case?

Many types of injury cases have at least an element of foreseeability. An event is legally foreseeable whenever a reasonable person could anticipate the potential harm of either doing or failing to do something.

When does foreseeability matter in injury law, though? Here is how a personal injury lawyer approaches that question.

Negligence vs. Strict Liability

Foreseeability is predominantly the domain of negligence-driven injury claims. A person may be negligent if they have a duty to address a problem and don't do enough to prevent someone else from coming to harm. If a homeowner leaves a hole in the ground while renovating a sidewalk, for example, they should visibly post tape or sawhorses to warn people of the danger. A homeowner who leaves the hole there without any warning would likely be liable if someone was hurt by falling into it.

The issue of foreseeability has no bearing in strict liability cases. That sounds bad for claimants, but it may be good. A party is strictly liable when they engage in known dangerous activities that society worries about. Demolition contractors, for example, are often strictly liable if they implode a building and send a piece of debris flying. Even if they took reasonable precautions, they are likely liable.

What Does Reasonable Mean in Legal Terms?

You might feel like this is a tricky question. However, the legal system has addressed it for centuries so most cases don't lead to major questions about reasonable precautions.

People often know instantly what reasonableness is legally when they hear the circumstances surrounding an accident. Suppose your neighbor was working on their car in a very sloped driveway. The car goes rolling and hits someone.

Would a reasonable person have tried fixing a car on a noticeable slope? Was it foreseeable the car could go rolling and hit somebody? Most folks would say yes.


If there are serious questions about foreseeability, a defendant has to decide if they want to fight the case to a trial in front of a jury. Do they believe 12 people wouldn't agree on the foreseeability of the events leading to an incident?

One of the main arguments for hiring a personal injury attorney is to make this point clear to a defendant or their insurer. An insurance company has to decide if it wants to spend the effort on a case that could cost them more if a jury awards a judgment bigger than what the claimant would have settled for. Contact a place like the Law Office Of Carlos Molinar for more information.