Under personal injury law, defendants often argue that they are not liable because certain events could not be foreseen. Depending upon the nature of the case, this defense could end up being the central problem with it or a minor delaying tactic. A few things will dictate how much this issue has to be addressed so take a look at what potential claimants should know about foreseeability.
What Is Foreseeability?
In the legal sense, foreseeability is oftentimes a core component of negligence. Suppose a business kept letting ice accumulate on its sidewalk over several days without doing anything to melt it, break it up, or otherwise get rid of it.
How foreseeable is it in this scenario that someone might get hurt? A reasonable person would probably say that it is very foreseeable. Nearly every personal injury lawyer certainly would. Nearly any situation that could reasonably be anticipated once the defendant knew most of the facts is considered foreseeable.
Why Does It Matter?
Most injury claims center on some form of negligence. If an apartment complex manager leaves a damaged stairway unattended for weeks until someone gets hurt, for example, that would likely be deemed negligent.
The simplest defense is usually that a reasonable person couldn't have foreseen what would happen before someone was hurt. Consider a variant of the previous example. Suppose the manager had no notice that the steps were damaged and that the damage had only happened within a couple of minutes before the incident. It would be hard to say the manager could have foreseen the risk when they didn't even have time to learn that it existed.
Is Foreseeability Always Important?
No, in some cases, strict liability applies. These cases usually involve activities that are broadly considered dangerous even when they're handled by skilled professionals. If you work as a tiger trainer, for example, the law doesn't care how foreseeable an attack on an audience member at a show may or may not have been. The law has determined that such people are automatically liable for anything that goes wrong, even under unforeseeable circumstances.
How to Refute a Foreseeability Defense
First, you may be able to find evidence that they knew about a problem. It's not unusual for texts, social media posts, memos, and other items to be found during discovery that show a party knew exactly what was wrong.
Secondly, you might show that they should have known. For example, the apartment complex manager in the earlier hypothetical should be checking the stairways of the building regularly for potential problems.
For more information, contact a personal injury lawyer.