LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Andrew Daniel Myers | Oct 24, 2010

PERSONAL INJURY: Causation

A crucial ingredient in every personal injury/negligence case is causation. It is not enough to show that the other person or entity is liable and that you have injuries. It might seem “technical" to someone not through the process before, but all injuries must be causally related to the bad actor’s liability.

"BUT FOR" CAUSATION: The negligent conduct or accident must be the cause in fact of an injury. The conduct or accident must actually have resulted in the injury in order to recover. Cause in fact is established by evidence that shows that the bad actor’s act or omission was a necessary cause of the injury. Another way of looking at this involves a determination of whether the injury would have occurred "but for" the bad or negligent conduct. If an injury would have occurred regardless of the defendant's actions, then there has been a failure to prove ‘cause in fact’ and the allegedly negligent party is not liable for that injury. When multiple factors precede an injury, it must be demonstrated that the allegedly negligent party’s conduct is a substantial factor in causing the injury.

PROXIMATE CAUSE: Those seeking to recover for injuries must also establish that the alleged negligence was what the law calls a ‘proximate cause’ of the injuries for which recovery is sought. The proximate cause concept embraces the idea of forseeability. The question for a court or jury is whether an accident or other negligent act bears a reasonable relationship to the risk created by the accident or other negligent act. If a resulting harm should have been foreseen as related to an accident or negligent act, then there is liability for the resulting damages. If the harm that is complained of could not reasonably have been foreseen, then proximate causation is absent in the case, and liability does not exist.

ALL DAMAGES MUST BE CAUSALLY RELATED: An injured party’s damages will not be paid by an insurer or awarded by a court unless a causal connection is established between negligent conduct and the harm. This is not just words. This is a trap for those involved in cases where multiple factors exist and underlie an accident. This is also a trap for those who may have had a pre existing condition, and where it must be demonstrated that damages in this context are those demonstrated to be an aggravation of the pre existing condition.

Additional resources provided by the author

This guide is offered for informational purposes only. It is not offered as, and does not constitute, legal advice. Laws vary widely from state to state. You should rely only on the advice given to you during a personal consultation by a local attorney who is thoroughly familiar with state laws and the area of practice in which your concern lies.

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