If you were hurt in a car accident or a slip and fall, you might wonder how to go about getting compensation. However, you can’t pursue compensation from just anybody. Instead, you will have to find out who caused the accident and prove they are liable.
In the sections to follow, the Law Offices of Mathys & Schneid explains causation and how it may impact your claim.
What Is Causation?
Causation is the link between the defendant’s actions and the injuries you suffered. You must be able to establish causation to win most types of personal injury cases.
Role of Causation in a Personal Injury Case
Causation is one of the legal elements of negligence. Most personal injury cases rely on a negligence cause of action. As a result, you must usually demonstrate causation before you can recover compensation from a defendant in a personal injury case. You cannot just allege that you suffered an injury. Instead, you must be able to show the defendant was responsible for causing it.
Causation is also a necessary element to establish you have standing to sue. Article III of the United States Constitution mandates that a plaintiff be able to show they have standing before they can file a lawsuit in court.
Types of Causation
Illinois caselaw carves out two types of causes. You must be able to show both in order to be able to establish your claim.
The first type of cause is actual cause. Actual cause is determined by using a “but-for” analysis. The court asks whether the injury would have occurred “but for” the defendant’s action or inaction.
If the injury would’ve still occurred if you removed the defendant’s conduct, there is no actual cause and no legal cause of action, either. However, if the injury would’ve only occurred because of the defendant’s actions, there is actual cause.
After establishing legal cause, you must show legal (also referred to as proximate) cause. Legal cause is the basis for why the specific defendant should be held legally responsible. This type of cause is often more difficult to establish than actual cause. The plaintiff’s injury must be reasonably foreseeable for there to be legal cause.
An Example of Actual and Legal Cause
Mary and John are traveling down the same roadway. Mary drives cautiously and obeys all traffic signals and signs. John is texting and driving. John looks down at his phone to text another message to his friend. The light turns green, and John plows forward – into the back of Mary’s vehicle.
John’s negligent driving is the actual cause of the accident. Mary would not have suffered injuries but for John’s bad driving and distraction.
John’s bad driving is also the legal cause of Mary’s injuries. It is foreseeable that if a person is texting while driving, the texting driver may cause an accident and injure another person.
In some situations, there may be multiple causes that contribute to an accident. In such situations, it may be necessary to flesh out the specific acts and omissions of each potentially liable party.
When there is more than one cause of an injury, a negligent party cannot usually avoid liability because someone else’s negligence also contributed to causing the same injury. In such situations, comparative negligence principles might apply, which apportions fault between each party who contributed to the injuries, potentially including the victim’s own negligence.
However, there are other situations where someone else’s conduct can break the causal connection between the injury and the defendant’s negligence – such as if a third party causes the injury and their conduct is unforeseeable. One example is if the third party commits a criminal act that causes the plaintiff’s injury.
In such situations, the third party’s actions may be said to be the “superseding cause” of the plaintiff’s injury and the sole party responsible for the injuries the victim suffered.
It is up to the trier of fact to determine whether an intervening cause was so significant that it creates a superseding cause.
Contact an Experienced Naperville Personal Injury Attorney
The chances are that you’ll need to establish causation in order to secure compensation in your personal injury case. Fortunately, if you hire a qualified Naperville personal injury lawyer to represent you, you’ll have a strong legal advocate on your side to present your best case. Reach out to a lawyer to set up a free consultation if you’re ready to get started.