What is Foreseeability and Proximate Cause in a Personal Injury Case?

Posted in Accident Information on November 20, 2020

Proving a personal injury case in Nebraska takes fulfilling many complicated legal standards. The majority of personal injury cases center on the legal doctrine of negligence. It will be up to you or your personal injury attorney to establish, based on a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of your accident and related personal injury. Proving negligence often comes down to whether or not the accident was foreseeable.

definition of foreseeability and proximate cause

What is Foreseeability?

Before you can recover compensation for an accident, you or your lawyer will need to establish that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of your injury, not only the actual cause. Furthermore, in many personal injury cases, you or your lawyer will need to prove foreseeability to hold the defendant liable. You must have evidence that the defendant foresaw or reasonably should have foreseen your injury occurring, yet failed to take steps to prevent the damage.

Foreseeability is another word for predictability. An accident may have been foreseeable if a reasonable and prudent person would have predicted it would happen. A slip and fall accident may be foreseeable, for example, if a property owner noticed a leaky pipe but did not fix it or warn visitors of the possibility of wet floors. Similarly, a dog attack may be foreseeable if the dog had previously bitten or attacked someone else in the past.

The foreseeability test asks if the defendant reasonably should have foreseen the consequences – namely, the plaintiff’s injury – that would result from his or her conduct. If the answer is yes, the defendant will most likely be liable for damages. If the plaintiff’s injury was not a reasonably foreseeable outcome of the defendant’s actions, however, the defendant may not be liable. The foreseeability test may be something you or your lawyer must prove before you can collect compensation from a defendant in Nebraska.

What Is Proximate Cause?

There are four main elements required to prove a claim based on the legal doctrine of negligence. The first two elements are duty and a breach of duty. You or your lawyer must prove that the defendant owed you a legal duty of care, yet negligently or intentionally breached this duty. The third element is damages. You must have proof that the accident in question gave you compensable damages, such as medical bills or lost wages. The fourth element of proof is causation. You must show that the defendant’s breach of duty was the proximate cause of your accident and injuries.

Proximate cause is the legal cause of an injury. It is the cause the law recognizes as the primary reason the injury occurred. Proximate cause may not be the first thing that caused the accident or even the most obvious act of negligence. It is the event or action that produced a foreseeable consequence – the personal injury. Your injury would not have happened were it not for the proximate cause. As the plaintiff of a personal injury claim in Omaha, you or your lawyer will need to show that your injuries were a direct result of the proximate cause.

Some states use the “but for” rule, while others use the “substantial factor” test. The “but for” rule asks if the injury would not have occurred but for the defendant’s negligence. If the answer is no, the injury would not have happened, the defendant will be liable for creating the proximate cause. The “substantial factor” test considers whether the defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the injury. The defendant’s actions must have materially contributed to the injury. If the defendant’s negligence only trivially influenced the occurrence of the injury, it will not be the proximate cause.

Work with a personal injury lawyer for assistance navigating complicated legal doctrines such as foreseeability and proximate cause in Nebraska.