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Proving Causation in Personal Injury Claims

Colburn Law

When you file a personal injury claim or lawsuit in Washington State, you will need to work with your attorney to prove that negligent actions caused your injuries. Without this causation, you would not be able to claim compensation for your injuries. While proving causation may seem straightforward in theory, it can get very complicated based on the facts of the case.

What are the Elements in a Personal Injury Negligence Claim?

When you file a personal injury claim or lawsuit, your attorney will need to satisfy four elements in order to successfully win your case.

  • First, your attorney will need to establish that the at-fault party named in your lawsuit owed you a duty of care. For example, a landlord has the responsibility to keep his or her property safe for visitors and tenants, while other drivers have to follow the rules of the road.
  • Next, your attorney will need to prove that the at-fault party breached his or her duty of care to you. A breach of duty of care can encompass activities such as running a red light to failing to fix a broken staircase after complaints from tenants.
  • The third element is the causation element. Your attorney will need to prove that the at-fault party’s breach of duty of care caused the injuries you are claiming compensation for. This element can become very complicated depending on a number of factors, such as lack of evidence or multiple at-fault parties.
  • Finally, your attorney will need to prove that you sustained injuries and damages that you can claim compensation for in your lawsuit. These damages can include medical expenses, lost wages, loss of quality of life, property damage, and pain and suffering.

What Is Causation in Personal Injury?

When you present your personal injury lawsuit, you will need to have compelling evidence that the at-fault party caused your injuries and damages. The more complicated your case is, the more difficult it becomes to establish causation. Attorneys trained in personal injury law have the tools and resources to establish causation in these cases, however. Specifically, attorneys use a two-part inquiry to prove causation: cause-in-fact and proximate cause.

What is Cause-in-Fact Causation?

Cause-in-fact causation is the more straightforward of the two causation legal tools. This term means that the at-fault party’s actions directly caused your injuries. To prove this, you and your attorney can present evidence that shows that the at-fault party’s action or failure to act was the direct or necessary cause of your injuries.

  • If the at-fault party ran a red light and crashed into your car, leading to your injuries, you can present surveillance footage or a police report detailing the cause of the crash. This evidence can prove that the driver failed to follow traffic laws, leading to your injuries
  • If the at-fault party is a landlord who failed to repair a staircase after tenants complained, you can present the correspondence from the tenants to prove that the landlord failed to maintain safe premises.

What is Proximate Cause?

Proximate cause is more difficult to prove than cause-in-fact causation. Once you and your attorney establish the cause-in-fact, you will have to prove that the actions of the at-fault party were the proximate cause of your injuries. If the at-fault party could have reasonably predicted that his or her actions could end in injury to someone else, you can establish proximate cause.

  • When a reasonable person runs a red light, he or she can assume that this action puts other drivers at risk of injury because of the risk of colliding with oncoming traffic. Therefore, you can establish proximate cause.
  • When a reasonable landlord hears about an unsafe staircase, he or she can assume that someone could trip and fall down the stairs and seriously injure him or herself. Therefore, you can establish proximate cause.

Determining legal causation in a personal injury claim can be a tricky process, but it is crucial to a successful claim. It requires significant legal education, training, and practice in your accident area. If you have not done so already, make sure to obtain the services of an experienced personal injury attorney to help you prove causation in your personal injury claim.