Causation, in personal injury law, means that the actions or inaction of the defendant resulted in your injuries. No matter how straightforward the accident may seem, you have to establish causation to recover compensation. Proving causation could mean the difference between you recovering damages for your injuries or receiving no compensation at all.
Let’s assume for a moment that you are driving to work on a Tuesday morning. You are running late and decide to answer some emails while you are waiting at a red light.
The light finally turns green, and you eventually glance up from your phone when a car in the intersection runs a red light. The driver that runs a red light collides with your car, and you are both severely injured in the car crash.
You were checking emails on your phone while driving. The other driver ran a red light. Who caused the accident? It’s not an easy question to answer, which is why causation can be such a complex, yet critical, component of a personal injury claim.
Introducing Legal Causation
Most personal injury claims are based on the concept of negligence, which essentially means “carelessness.” There are four legal elements required to prove negligence, and one of these is causation. As the personal injury victim, you will need to establish each element “by a preponderance of the evidence.”
Within a negligence case, two types of causation must be supported by the evidence. These are called “cause in fact” and “proximate cause.”
Cause in Fact
Cause in fact means that the defendant’s actions directly caused your injuries. If a driver runs a red light and runs into your car and you are injured as a result, that driver is the actual cause of your injuries.
Cause in fact is proven by presenting evidence related to the defendant’s conduct. You would need to prove that your injuries would not have occurred but for the driver running the red light and hitting your car.
If an injury would have occurred regardless of the defendant’s actions, then cause in fact cannot be proven. If you cannot establish cause in fact, you will not be able to recover compensation or hold the defendant liable.
In addition to proving the cause in fact, you must also show that the defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of the accident. Proximate cause exists to make sure that there is a close connection between the at-fault party’s conduct and your injuries.
If proximate cause didn’t exist, you could potentially hold the at-fault driver’s mother liable for damages after a car accident. After all, if she hadn’t given birth to the defendant, the accident wouldn’t have occurred – therefore establishing cause in fact. This is an undesirable result that the law seeks to avoid.
Proximate cause requires that you show it is reasonably foreseeable that the at-fault party’s actions would lead to the accident in question. For example, it is reasonable to assume that running a red light would cause a car accident, and thus proximate cause is likely satisfied.
The following are examples of evidence that can help you establish causation:
- Medical records
- Witness statements and testimony
- Expert analysis and testimony
- Incident reports
- Photos and videos of the accident and scene
- Police reports
- Toxicology reports
- Cell phone records
- Traffic camera footage
A common tactic that insurance companies use is to blame the victim. This blame is often unfair and an inaccurate representation of what occurred. However, if the at-fault party’s insurer can establish that you were at fault, and not their client, they will not have to pay your personal injury claim. Do not accept blame or fault for your injuries; instead, consult with a personal injury attorney.
A Trusted Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You Establish Causation
If you cannot prove causation, your claim will not go far. Fortunately, an experienced personal injury attorney can work with you to establish causation and recover the compensation you need and deserve.
Since most attorneys in this area of the law offer free consultations, you can get some initial legal advice at no cost – it’s likely worth your time to reach out and determine your legal options. The lawyers at Curiel & Runion Personal Injury Lawyers are here to help, we have offices in Phoenix, AZ, and Albuquerque, NM so contact us online or give us a call at (602) 595-5559 today!