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Causation is the causal relationship between the defendant’s conduct and end result. It is the act or process that produces an effect.

In a personal injury case, you must establish causation – meaning that it’s not enough to show that the defendant was negligent. The negligence must be what caused the complainant’s injuries. Causation essentially means proof of negligence. Causation in negligence can be hard to determine because every negligence case is subjective. It is not always obvious, so there needs to be legal parameters to follow to determine the cause of negligence. Because of the nuances, it is important to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer at Burger Law who understands both parts of causation:

  • Cause-in-fact
  • Cause-in-fact, also known as factual causation or actual cause, is the actual evidence, or facts of the case, that prove a party is at fault for causing the other person’s harm, damages or losses. It seeks to answer a question to the “but-for” test – asking if the victim was harmed, was that harm directly caused by the defendant’s actions? Another way to think about it is: But for the existence of ABC, would XYZ have happened?

  • Proximate causation
  • Unlike the fact-based timeline of factual causation, proximate causation is a trickier legal concept. Proximate causation is about opinions and options that are not necessarily rooted in fact, but rather about finding out whether or not the injury would have occurred without the proximate cause. It asks the question: Is it reasonable that the defendant knew their actions could and would cause harm? Proximate causation needs to be a direct cause of the harm that was done. It cannot be anything coincidental or abnormal. It also cannot be foreseeable.

An example of causation in negligence would be a homeowner leaving the surrounding their backyard pool unlocked. Suppose a child opens the gate, falls into the pool and drowns. The homeowner’s negligent action caused the accident, so causation could be established. However, if a child climbed over the fence at the other end of the pool, fell into the pool and drowned, the homeowner would not be liable. Although there was negligence in both examples, the negligence in this case did not cause the child’s accident. The accident would have happened even if the gate had been locked.

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