What Is Causation?

Causation is a required element of a negligence claim. Negligence is the basis for most personal injury claims filed in California. Simply put, if you cannot prove causation, you cannot recover compensation from the party you accuse of causing your injury.

Causation is the third legal element of a negligence claim. It describes why something happened. 

For example, another driver slams into your vehicle at a red light. It is evident that the other vehicle collided with your vehicle. However, causation explains why the vehicles collide, such as the driver was drunk, distracted, or speeding.

It is not sufficient to prove the other elements of negligence. If you cannot establish a chain of causation, you cannot prove your case. 

Types of Cause in a Personal Injury Case

In a personal injury case, you must prove both types of cause to establish fault and liability for damages. The two types of causation are:

Cause In Fact (Actual Cause)

Cause in fact refers to the actual reason an event occurs. 

In our example above, the driver was distracted at the time of the accident because he was texting while driving. Therefore, the driver failed to recognize that traffic had stopped for a red light. The result was a rear-end accident

The “direct cause” of your car accident was a driver failing to stop for a red light and slamming into the rear of your vehicle because of a distraction. The car crash was also the direct cause of your injuries because you would not have sustained the injuries had it not been for the car crash. 

Proximate Cause

Proximate cause is different from the actual cause. Proximate cause is based on whether a “reasonable person” would have known the conduct could result in injury to another person. 

Generally, an individual is not held liable for damages when the person could not reasonably foresee a link between his conduct and the outcome. Parties are also not typically liable for damages resulting from unpredictable events when the circumstances that led to the event were not within their control.

In the above example, a jury might find that a reasonable person would have known or should have known that texting while driving could lead to an accident. Therefore, the driver could be held liable for damages caused by the car accident. 

Another example of a proximate cause might be a swimming pool accident. A property owner should reasonably expect that someone could come onto their property and enter the pool area. Therefore, the property owner constructs a fence and installs a gate with an automatic lock.

If someone breaks into the pool area, the owner might not be liable if the person is injured. The owner took reasonable measures to prevent injuries. The owner could not have foreseen all intervening events that led to the injury. 

What Are the Other Elements of a Negligence Claim?

The legal elements of a negligence claim are:

  • Duty of Care
  • Breach of Duty of Care
  • Causation
  • Damages

Each of the legal elements must link together to form a chain of causation. Defendants can use unforeseeable or intervening events to break the chain of causation. Each element must be clearly established for the accident victim to be entitled to compensation for damages. 

What Comes After You Prove Causation in a Personal Injury?

Once you prove causation, you must prove damages. If you did not sustain injuries or damages because of the party’s conduct, you are not entitled to compensation.

For example, if a drunk driver runs a red light and causes you to swerve off the road, you might assume that you are entitled to compensation for the accident. However, you do not have a personal injury claim if you did not sustain injuries or incur financial losses.

However, most individuals who sustain injuries incur damages. 

Damages might include economic and non-economic damages such as:

  • Medical bills and expenses
  • Physical therapy and other rehabilitative therapies 
  • Cost of personal care 
  • Loss of wages, benefits, and other income 
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Scarring, disfigurement, impairments, and disabilities
  • Emotional distress and mental anguish
  • Reduced quality of life and loss of enjoyment of life

Careful documentation of damages through medical and financial records increases the chance of receiving maximum compensation for your personal injury claim. 

The value of your claim depends on your financial losses, the severity of injuries, and shared liability for the cause of the accident. 

The insurance company for the other party may offer you a quick settlement offer. If you are unsure of the value of your damages or the types of damages you are entitled to receive for an injury claim, you might want to talk with a personal injury lawyer before signing any documents or accepting the settlement offer. 

Signing a settlement agreement could result in giving up your right to file a personal injury lawsuit or pursuing other legal action to recover damages.

Contact Our San Diego Personal Injury Lawyers for a Free Consultation 

Proving causation is a requirement to win a personal injury case. Instead of attempting this alone, you can have an attorney from our Mission Personal Injury Lawyers, P.C. team working on this issue and other legal requirements necessary for you to win your personal injury case.

Contact our law firm in San Diego, CA, to schedule your free consultation, or call us at (619) 777-5555 to discuss your case and receive legal advice free of charge during your initial meeting with an attorney.