If you’ve been injured in an accident, you deserve fair compensation from the person responsible. To win compensation in a personal injury claim, you must identify who was responsible and prove they caused your injuries. 

Proving causation is more challenging than it might seem and often requires skilled legal assistance from an experienced attorney. 

What Is Legal Causation in a Personal Injury Claim? 

A winning personal injury claim requires the plaintiff to prove certain elements, including duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. Depending on the case, some elements can be trickier to prove than others. 

Legal causation requires facts showing the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries. In other words, that the defendant acted (or failed to act) in a way that directly led to the plaintiff suffering harm. Courts will ask: “but for” the conduct of the defendant, would the plaintiff’s loss have occurred? 

Within the concept of causation in a personal injury claim are two types of causation: “cause in fact” and “proximate cause”. The plaintiff must establish both of these to satisfy the overall causation element of their case. 

What Is Cause in Fact?

Factual causation involves the “but for” question about the defendant’s conduct. The personal injury claimant must show some act by the defendant that led to or significantly contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries. This type of causation can be proven through witness testimony, video recordings, or other evidence showing an act or omission by the defendant. 

The plaintiff must prove it was the defendant’s act – not some other reason – that their loss occurred. If their injury would have happened regardless of the defendant’s involvement, causation can’t be shown. 

What Is Proximate Cause? 

Proximate cause in a personal injury case means a direct action causing loss to a person. Proximate cause also means that the actions of a person owing a duty to another were sufficiently related to the victim’s injuries that the defendant can be held legally responsible. 

The connection must involve an unbroken chain of events between the defendant’s act and harm to another person. If there is another event or act involved that breaks this chain, the proximate cause is hard to prove. 

In the legal system, proximate cause is often evaluated by looking at the foreseeability of a person’s action causing injury to another. For example, if Driver #1 speeds through a red light and crashes into Driver #2, the crash was a foreseeable – or predictable – outcome of driving through a red light. Driver #1 becomes legally responsible for Driver #2’s injuries. 

Origins of the Causation Requirement in Personal Injury Cases

American negligence law is thought to originate from an 1850 case, Brown v. Kendall, which set out the elements of a personal injury claim. That case involved an interaction between two dog owners. One of the men accidentally struck the other with a stick while breaking up a dog fight, causing injuries. The case holds important lessons, including the reminder that no case is too small to deserve legal attention. 

The issue of causation earned more attention in a landmark 1928 court case, Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Company. In that case, a woman stood on a train platform awaiting her train. Some distance away, a man attempted to board a moving train while holding a package of fireworks. 

A guard for the railroad company, not knowing this man carried explosives, made contact with the man, who then lost his balance. In doing so, he dropped the package, and the fireworks exploded. The force of the explosion caused injuries to the plaintiff, Helen Palsgraf. Palsgraf sued the railroad company for negligence and the damages she suffered. 

The court rejected Palsgraf’s claim on the basis that her injuries were not reasonably foreseeable to the railroad company’s employee. While the sequence of events caused her injuries (“cause in fact”), no proximate cause existed, and the railroad company was not legally responsible. 

Consult a San Antonio Personal Injury Lawyer for Help Proving Causation 

If you are trying to establish a personal injury claim and prove causation by another person or entity, they will fight back. They will attack your theory of causation and might even claim you were the one at fault. Potential defendants, their attorneys, and their insurance companies will use every resource to downplay or even dismiss your claim. 

It is crucial to consult a San Antonio personal injury attorney for help establishing causation in your personal injury case. Doing so can help you move one step closer to recovering the compensation you deserve.  Contact our team at George Salinas Injury Lawyers at (210) 225-0909 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney.