Causation is an essential legal element in personal injury cases. It refers to the causal relationship between one person’s conduct and another person’s injury.
To show that a negligent party is liable for your injuries, you must first prove they caused them. If you cannot prove that an act caused your injury, you cannot succeed in your injury claim.
For example, suppose a driver cuts off another vehicle, causing a car accident or motorcycle accident. The vehicle collides with the car turning in front of it. Had the first car not cut the second car cut off, the accident would not have happened. The driver’s dangerous driving behavior caused the accident.
Ultimately, causation is concerned with two questions: did a specific act cause a specific outcome? Then, would that outcome have occurred had it not been for the specific act? You must answer both of those questions to satisfy the requirements of legal causation.
What is Negligence?
Most personal injury claims are based on negligence. Negligence is the failure to use a reasonable level of care in a given situation. The level of care is based on what a reasonably prudent person would have done in a similar situation.
The legal elements of negligence are:
- Duty of Care
- Breach of the Duty of Care
It is not sufficient to prove a party owed you a duty of care or breached their duty of care. In addition, it is not enough to prove that you sustained damages and injuries in an accident. You must prove that the party’s conduct was a “direct and proximate cause” of your injuries to succeed on your injury claim.
What Do We Mean by Direct and Proximate?
Direct (cause in fact) and proximate cause are two different types of legal cause. A plaintiff must prove both legal causes in a personal injury case.
Cause in Fact
Cause in fact or “direct” cause means that the defendant’s conduct led to the plaintiff’s injury. The evidence must show that the injury would not have happened if not for the defendant’s act or omission.
If the plaintiff had been injured regardless of the defendant’s conduct, the defendant’s conduct was not a cause in fact of the plaintiff’s injury. Therefore, the defendant is not liable for the plaintiff’s damages.
For example, a person falls over a broken step at an apartment complex that has been broken for several weeks. The apartment owner knew about the broken step but did not repair it or post warnings.
Had it not been for the broken step, the person would not have fallen. Therefore, the broken step is the direct cause of the person’s injury. The apartment owner’s failure to report the step is a direct cause of the fall, which would make it liable for damages.
On the other hand, the person is following another person up the apartment steps. The person in front drops a heavy object causing the step to crack in half. The person in the back trips and falls on the broken step.
The apartment complex would not be liable for damages because it did nothing to cause the step to break. Therefore, there is no link between the apartment complex’s conduct and the broken step.
Proximate cause is the relation of an event to an injury. The test for determining if a proximate cause exists is foreseeability. An injury must be a foreseeable result of the defendant’s conduct to establish proximate cause. In other words, the defendant must have engaged in negligent conduct that caused foreseeable injuries to foreseeable injury victims.
In the example above, a reasonable person could predict that a broken step could cause someone to trip and fall. Therefore, if the apartment owner did nothing to repair the step, the apartment owner’s conduct is the proximate cause of the person’s injury.
However, the apartment owner could not reasonably foresee someone dropping something on the step and causing it to break in half just before another person climbed the steps. Therefore, the apartment owner would only be liable under proximate cause if it failed to inspect the premises for defects or did nothing once it discovered the broken step.
Call Our Miami Personal Injury Lawyer Today for a Free Consultation
Our legal team at Shaked Law Personal Injury Lawyers is ready to help you prove that another person caused your accident and injuries. Contact our office at (305) 937-0191 to schedule your free consultation with an experienced Miami personal injury lawyer.