Our actions sometimes have unexpected consequences, but to what extent are we liable when these actions cause someone to get hurt? The answer to this question plays a pivotal role in determining whether or not we can be held responsible when an act of negligence on our part results in a personal injury.
In the area of personal injury law, negligence is our failure to exercise the reasonable amount of care that a particular situation calls for. In order to be held liable, the harm that occurred must have been foreseeable (although the extent does not have to be). We must also have breached a duty of care owed to the victim.
A common example is motor vehicle accidents. When we get behind the wheel, we have a duty to everyone else on the road—to drive safely and responsibly. If we speed, text while driving or drink too much before heading home, then this duty of care is violated. If someone is injured by this breach of duty, then we can be held liable.
How does foreseeability come into play?
Foreseeability helps determine whether or not a direct causation exists between our actions and the other person’s injuries. In some cases it can limit the scope of injuries for which we may be held responsible.
The foreseeability “test” asks whether a person of normal intelligence could reasonably have foreseen the outcome of their actions. A good example is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causing an accident as a result. The average person knows that impaired driving is an act of negligence that can foreseeably injure pedestrians and other motorists. Therefore, anyone we crash into can hold us liable.
On the other hand, if we suddenly faint behind the wheel and cause a collision that injures the other driver, we were arguably not acting negligently because we had no reasonable way of foreseeing the fainting spell. Unless we had a history of fainting suddenly, the victim’s primary recourse would be filing a claim with their own insurance company.
Exceptions to the foreseeability rule
There are circumstances under which unforeseeability cannot act as a defense. One example is when an intervening event comes between our alleged negligence and the victim’s injury. For example, if we accidently ran someone off the road (without harming them) and they were attacked by a would-be carjacker while waiting for the tow truck, then we cannot be held accountable for their injuries because a criminal attack is not a foreseeable outcome of a car accident.
Another example the “eggshell” or “thin skull” rule that essentially means that you have to take the injured person as you find them. This means that if you hurt someone, then you are liable for damages, even if the person had a condition like brittle bone disease that made their injuries worse than normal. You may have had no way of knowing how badly they would be hurt, but you are still responsible for the outcome.
Determining who is responsible for an injury is difficult, which is why you should always contact a personal injury attorney if it happens to you. Your attorney has the training and experience to assess negligence, determine the foreseeability of your injuries, and hold the right party accountable, so you can seek compensation.
If you were injured by someone else, then you may be entitled to cash compensation. To learn more about your options, then set up a free consultation to meet with Jayson Lutzky in person. Mr. Lutzky is a personal injury and accident lawyer with an office in the Bronx, New York. Call 718-329-9500 to learn more or visit www.MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com.