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What Does it Mean to Legally “Cause” an Injury?


In order to prevail on a negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove causation — a legally-recognized causal relationship between the defendant’s breach of duty and the plaintiff’s injuries.

Causation is a mandatory element of a negligence claim, which means that if the plaintiff cannot prove it to the required degree, the plaintiff’s claim will fail. This is true even where the plaintiff was seriously injured or suffered significant property damage. The law will only hold a negligent defendant legally liable if his or her ngeligent conduct actually caused the damage or injury.

Plaintiffs must still prove causation even if the defendant’s breach of duty is established by fact, or by law, including cases involving “negligence per se.”


 “Actual” Causation is essentially what most people think of when they consider the “cause” of an injury. If the Defendant’s negligence is the reason why the plaintiff suffered harm, or a substantial factor in causing the harm, then generally the defendant’s negligence is considered to be the “actual cause” of the injury.

“Proximate” Causation can be more difficult for non-lawyers to understand. Proximate cause is “legal cause” and refers to whether or not the defendant’s conduct is legally recognized as the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The issue of proximate cause generally revolves around the question of foreseeability: specifically, whether or not it was reasonably foreseeable that the defendant’s breach of duty would cause the harm the plaintiff actually suffered.

Injured people should not attempt to evaluate their legal claims on their own, even (and in some cases, especially) with the assistance of online research or written articles. If you or your dependents have suffered an injury or damage to your property because of someone else’s acts, contact an experienced lawyer promptly for an evaluation of your legal rights. While not all injuries can form the basis for a legal action–in negligence or otherwise–delay can compromise your right to recover (or even prevent you from recovering damages for your injuries at all). Consult an attorney promptly to learn about your rights, potential claims, and possible remedies.


Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Negligence claims are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against someone who injured you, a lawyer who represented you in a previous lawsuit, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your personal rights and claims.

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