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Understanding Foreseeability

FORESEEABILITY is an everyday word, but it plays an important role in the area of law, as it helps to explain liability for negligence. There is negligence in tort and criminal law to describe the careless action of an individual.

Human beings have the ability to understand their environment and interaction with others sufficiently enough to know what is reasonable to do, or what is not reasonable to do.

They have the ability to know that their action or inaction could cause some adverse effect to others, because the reasonably prudent person would be aware and avoid causing certain harm. In short, from their vantage point they could foresee the

The Law

effect of their actions or non-actions. In law the word “foreseeability” gives a special effect and lends itself to the explanation of human action.

Black’s Law Dictionary describes “foreseeability” as the ability to see or know in advance. For example, there is a reasonable anticipation that harm or injury is a likely result from certain acts or omissions.

You know that if you drive a car negligently there could be an accident and that people can get hurt. One of the elements of negligence is causation, which is based on forseeability. You have a duty of care to every person to whom you come in contact, that is, foreseeable victims. The law allows for casual contact, so that if you get into a crowded bus and you accidentally touch someone, that act is not a tort and you could be excused, meaning you would not be liable for that act. If you injure a person during some interaction, that act of yours could have consequences and you could be liable.

When you breach your duty of care you would be liable if you cause the person’s injury. This is your foreseeable victim.

The standard of care is that of the reasonably prudent person. Causation is an element of negligence. Causation is actual and proximate. Actual causation is the factual cause. There is a link between the breach and the injury. It is determined by the “but for” test, that is, but for the breach there would be no injury. The proximate cause or legal cause is the foreseeability element. The consequence of the breach must be foreseeable. It is foreseeable that a breach of the duty of care would cause injury, hence the persons who injures another is liable and a court of law will find him guilty.

There can also be indirect cause from a breach.

You cause someone’s injury, but there could be delayed injury. In fact, in an encounter there might be partial or no injury, but there could be later effects, some might be foreseeable or unforeseeable. A person will not be responsible for the unforeseeable injuries, but will be for foreseeable injuries. For example, the law recognizes several indirect causes. The most obvious one is the intervening medical injury.

A person is injured and has to undergo surgery.

The condition of a person could be worsened by a surgery gone wrong. The person who caused the injury and the doctor could be liable, because it is foreseeable that an injury could occur. If the victim develops a subsequent disease as a result of the accident, the wrongdoer would be liable, because it was foreseeable that a person in a weakened condition could develop a disease, for example, a hospital acquired infection.

Ada Johnson