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Actual Cause and Proximate Cause in Personal Injury Lawsuits in Houston

Once a person or an entity is injured by the negligence of another person or entity, the elements of negligence are essential to the theory of the case. The “causation” element generally relates to whether the defendant’s actions hurt the plaintiff. It is often not clear who or what injured the plaintiff. Sometimes it is clear that the defendant injured the plaintiff, but it is not all that clear that the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

Actual Cause (Causation in fact) and (ii)Proximate Cause (Legal Causation)

When negligent conduct on behalf of a person or an entity is shown, the injured party must show that the conduct was the cause of their injury. For the injured party to recover, they must show both the actual cause and proximate damage causeActual cause means that the plaintiff’s injury would not have occurred without the defendant’s act. Proximate cause indicates that the plaintiff’s injury was directly caused by the defendant’s show and was a reasonably foreseeable result of the defendant’s act. 

Actual Cause (Causation in Fact) 

To determine whether the defendant’s conduct can be considered a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury, the injured party must show that the cause of the damage was a cause “In fact.”, and there are several tests* that’s used to determine this:

(i) “But for” Test 

The principle that causation exists only if the harm suffered by a party would not have happened in the absence of (“but for”) the defendant’s conduct.

(ii) Joint Causes- Substantial Factor test 

The principle by which two or more defendants will be liable if their joint actions caused the plaintiff’s harm but their individual actions alone would have resulted in the same harm.

(iii) Alternative Causes Approach 

Alternative liability is a legal doctrine that allows a plaintiff to shift the burden of proving causation of her injury to multiple defendants, even though only one of them could have been responsible.

*Note Under the joint causes approach, both parties caused the harm. Although both parties acted negligently under the alternative causes approach, only one caused the harm. 

Proximate Cause (Legal Causation) 

           In addition to being a cause, the defendant’s conduct must also be the proximate cause of the injury. Even though the conduct caused the plaintiff’s damage, it might not be deemed to be the proximate cause. Thus, the doctrine of proximate causation is a limitation of liability and deals with liability or non-liability for unforeseeable or unusual consequences of one’s acts. Proximate cause prevents the plaintiff from suing parties whose actions are too remote to hold them liable somewhat. It does this by only making a defendant responsible for the foreseeable injuries they cause to foreseeable plaintiffs.

Actual Cause (Causation in fact) and (ii)Proximate Cause (Legal Causation)

For example, Driver A ran a red light and hit Driver B. This time, Driver B spins out and hits Driver C. Was it foreseeable that Driver A would strike at least one car if they sped through a red light at a busy intersection? Yes, a reasonable person would have predicted the likelihood of an accident. Driver A would also likely be liable for Driver C’s injuries under a proximate cause analysis. Even though Driver B collided with Driver C, Driver A’s actions were the proximate cause of Driver C’s accident and injuries. It was foreseeable that Driver A’s running through a red light might cause a collision with another driver (Driver B), who might also collide with a third driver (Driver C).

It’s easy to see how complicated causation can be, and defendants are likely to toss out any mitigating factors to offset their guilt. If you’re facing a personal injury case, it may be in your best interest to consult with an attorney. At Houston Injury Lawyers, PLLC, our firm focuses the entirety of our time and expertise on representing those who have suffered a personal injury and helping our clients through the entire recovery process – physical, emotional, and financial recovery – from their injuries. We allow our clients to tip the balance of justice into their favor through our years of experience and devotion to our clients. Our care and preparation are core principles and keys to our success. The lawyers at Houston Injury Lawyers, PLLC, can help you navigate this issue and answer any questions that you may have. If you would like to speak to someone about your particular situation or for a free and confidential consultation, call our office at (713) 366-HURT (4878) today or visit us online www.houinjurylawyers.com.

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