In an earlier blog, we talked about the standard of care in a negligence claim. We explained how, in order to successfully recover damages when you are injured by someone else’s actions, you must show that they failed to act as a reasonable person would. But there’s more. In addition, you must show that this failure caused you to suffer an injury.
The Two Types of Causation in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
To prove a personal injury claim, you must also establish a causal link between the defendant’s act and your injuries or losses. The law identifies two different types of causation:
- Actual or “but for” cause-Actual or “but for” causation asks a simple question-would the plaintiff have suffered the injury at all “but for” your failure to exercise reasonable care? In most cases, actual cause is easy to establish-a person runs a red light or a company fails to properly test a product and you suffer injury. You wouldn’t have been hurt if the motorist had stopped at the light or the company had run basic tests.
- Proximate cause-The concept of proximate cause is much more complex. Essentially, proximate cause limits liability to only those situations where the injury was “reasonably foreseeable” based on the defendant’s failure to use appropriate care. If you drive in excess of the speed limit, it’s reasonable to expect that you may not be able to stop before hitting another vehicle, if you have to brake suddenly. However, it may not be foreseeable that the car you hit was taking someone to the hospital because they were experiencing chest pains. If that person dies of a heart attack because of the delay caused by the accident, you won’t likely face a wrongful death lawsuit, as the death was not reasonably foreseeable. However, if you slam into the back of another car and the crash kills someone, that’s likely to be reasonably foreseeable.
Click here to learn about the damage requirement in a personal injury lawsuit.
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