Objective Vs. Subjective Foreseeability In Injury Law

17 February 2023
 Categories: Law, Blog

When a personal injury lawyer examines most cases, their first question often covers how foreseeable the incident in question was to the defendant. They then have to consider whether the foreseeability of the incident was subjective or objective. Before you seek compensation, you should understand what foreseeability means to personal injury attorneys and how it might affect cases.


Accidents happen, and not all accidents happen for foreseeable reasons. If lightning strikes someone at a state fair on a perfectly clear day with nothing showing on the weather radar, it's hard to accuse the fair operators of negligence. After all, who can foresee lightning striking someone literally out of the blue?

Now suppose the fair kept going even though extreme weather was coming in. Worse, there had been hours of weather warnings. Also, people had heard thunder. The fair's failure to advise attendees to seek shelter could constitute legally liable negligence because you could foresee someone being hurt in bad weather.

Subjective Foreseeability

Evidence means a lot to any personal injury law firm. Subjectively foreseeable events in law are things that a defendant knew at the time. In this case, the defendant is the subject, so the law may see the defendant's knowledge of a potential hazard as negligent.

Suppose a nightclub had two stories, and the upper story overlooked the dance floor. For safety, the nightclub installed a rail to prevent people from falling onto the first story. However, several clubgoers might complain to the manager that the rail felt loose. If the manager elected to not close the second story of the club because they didn't want to lose revenue on a busy night and the rail later failed, they could be liable for injuries suffered by anyone who fell.

This is subjective foreseeability. It matters because a personal injury law office can prove in these cases that a defendant knew and ignored the risk.

Objective Foreseeability

Something is objectively foreseeable when a reasonable person would have known better. Imagine that two friends were walking along the side of a narrow street, and one friend jokingly shoved the other one a little too hard and sent them into the path of a moving vehicle. The person who shoved their friend didn't specifically know a car was coming but could still be liable.

This is objective foreseeability. Even though the at-fault party didn't know the full situation, a reasonable person would tell you not to shove other people near or on a street. Consequently, they may be liable for a victim's injuries.

Contact a personal injury lawyer to learn more.