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Proving Causation In A Personal Injury Case


In any personal injury claim, a victim seeks to prove that a wrongdoer was negligent in some way that caused the incident in question. This seems simple at first. At first a Plaintiff will pinpoint where and how the injury occurred, and who else was involved. That other person should then be responsible for the damage caused, presumably.

However, the law requires that the Plaintiff support a specific set of elements in a personal injury case. These elements are:

  1. Duty. Namely, that the Defendant had a duty to act in a certain way or follow a certain procedure under the circumstances. This generally means a duty to act as “a reasonable person would act under the same or similar circumstances.” In medical malpractice cases, for example, a doctor is held to the same duty as other doctors in their profession. In an auto accident case, the defendant driver is held to the standard of another reasonable person driving a vehicle in their situation.
  2. Breach. The Defendant breached their duty by failing to act as a reasonable person would under the same set of circumstances.
  3. Causation. This is often the most contested portion of a personal injury case.

Causation consists of two subsets:

  1. Cause “in fact”: This means that “but for” the Defendant’s actions, the Plaintiff’s injuries would not have occurred. If the Defendant struck a pedestrian while driving through an intersection, their actions were the “cause in fact” of the pedestrian’s injuries, for example.
  2. Proximate Cause: This is intended to limit the causation question to what is fair to the parties, particularly what was foreseeable to the Defendant. Proximate cause is defined as the result of a direct action that sets in motion a chain of events that is unbroken and causes damage or injury with no other interference. The connection between the Defendant’s act and the Plaintiff’s damage must have been “reasonably foreseeable”, a natural consequence, and not too remotely connected. If a driver runs a stop sign on a street and hits a pedestrian, that was a foreseeable consequence of their negligent act. If they drove through that same intersection, ran over a glass bottle, and a person stepped on that glass an hour later and cut their foot, there may be “cause in fact” but not “proximate cause” under the legal definition. Proximate cause, unlike “cause in fact”, limits the chain of events between a Defendant’s act and the Plaintiff injury to a short sequence that could have been anticipated by a reasonable person.

Damage: This is the amount of harm or injury caused to the Plaintiff, particularly any physical injury as well as medical expenses, economic harm, lost earnings or lost future earnings, as well as pain and suffering.

The damages portion of a personal injury claim or trial usually follows the establishment of liability. Liability cannot be shown without some proof of causation, which is why Defendants will fight hard to show the causation element cannot be established. Well-funded Defendants such as businesses or hospitals will often spare no cost to win on this element, making the case subject to dismissal. A well-experienced Philadelphia personal injury law firm will know how to fight back and present every piece of evidence linking the Defendant’s actions to the cause of the Plaintiff’s injuries.

The Plaintiff’s Personal Injury Attorneys at Green & Schafle Can Build Your Case and Prove Causation in Court

To secure fair compensation you are entitled to in a personal injury case, you will need to prove that the Defendant caused your injuries. This can seem straightforward at first, but can be a complex and problematic portion of any personal injury case. Defendant’s attorneys will work hard to disprove your allegations, but we know tactics they will use and how to combat them. Whether you are considering filing a personal injury claim or have already started the process, don’t hesitate to call our Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at Green & Schafle today. Our legal team is available for a free consultation at 1-855-462-3330, or you can complete our online questionnaire to get started.

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