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Foreseeability and Personal Injury Claims in Maryland

Many personal injury lawsuits are based on a theory of negligence. In order to recover damages in negligence, the victim must show that the injuries that he or she suffered were a foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions.


In Maryland, to prove negligence, a plaintiff must show that:

●The defendant had a duty of care to avoid harming the plaintiff;

●The defendant breached that duty;

●The plaintiff was injured; and

●The breach was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury.

There are two kinds of causation in Maryland personal injury claims: causation in fact and proximate cause, or foreseeability. To recover damages in a personal injury suit, an injured party must demonstrate that both kinds of causation existed.

Causation in Fact

The “but for” test is often used to determine whether causation in fact existed. The victim must prove that but for the defendant’s negligent behavior, he or she would not have been injured. For example, if a driver had not run a red light, he would not have hit and injured a pedestrian crossing in the crosswalk.

Proximate Cause

Proximate cause is more complex, but essentially, it means that the harm must have been foreseeable. The injury must have been a direct, and not attenuated, result of the defendant’s actions.

To take but-for causation to an extreme, if a driver hits a pedestrian with his car and the pedestrian is injured, the state of Maryland’s action in granting the driver his license was a but-for cause of the pedestrian’s injuries. But clearly, it would be absurd to hold the state liable for the driver’s negligence. There is no foreseeability in the case.

In order for a defendant to be held liable for negligence, he or she must have been able to foresee that someone would be injured as a result of his or her actions. However, the exact type of injury need not be foreseeable. For example, a driver who runs a red light and hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk need not specifically foresee that the pedestrian would break her arm. Instead, the plaintiff only need show that the general field of danger was foreseeable, that if the defendant engaged in the behavior, it was foreseeable that this type of injury would occur. For example, if a driver runs a red light, it is foreseeable that that act could result in the driver striking and injuring a pedestrian.

Proximate cause need not always be so obvious, however, for a defendant to be held legally responsible for an injury. If a person fires a gun at someone, it is clearly foreseeable that the person could be injured by the bullet. But if the bullet hits a shelf behind the intended victim, which falls on the victim and another person, proximate cause exists for both victim’s injuries and the shooter will likely be held liable.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You

If you have been injured because of another’s negligence, an attorney can educate you about the legal intricacies of a negligence action and can put together your best possible case. Please call the Law Office of Robert R. Castro at 301-804-2312 to schedule an initial consultation.