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Causation Of Injury And Proximate Cause

February 18, 2020

By Thomas McCutcheon

Joel and I handle personal injury cases, the greatest number of which are legal torts. Automobile accident cases are “torts” meaning that there was a legal duty, the duty was breached, and there was damage as a result. That’s two full semesters of law school, and all three must happen.

The first two are easy to understand. A driver who runs a stop sign has “breached” a “legal duty”.

The damage or injury that happens when another driver runs a stop sign must be “proximately caused” by that breach of duty.

Every living American lawyer studied, and remembers, Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad. In that case, a railroad employee caused a man to drop a bundle of fireworks. They exploded and caused a large scale to fall and hit Helen Palsgraf. She was injured and stuttered thereafter.

Law professors love this case. It has a ton of moving parts.

One of those parts is the relationship of the harm to the wrongful act and how that must be proven.

For example, all personal injury lawyers will hear or have heard that after an accident, a person’s cancer came out of remission. While that did happen, it may not be that the accident caused the cancer to come out of remission. It would take a physician to testify that the accident caused the cancer to come out of remission. Without that type of “proof”, a judge would not let a jury consider that a car wreck caused cancer. It does not matter how much the injured person thought that it did.

Injured people can certainly tell a jury about cuts, abrasions, and bruises. An injured person can talk about how they were before the accident and after, as long as the injuries flow from the accident. If it’s complicated, like surgery, a physician must testify as to the cause for the surgical treatment.

The law requires legal causation as to the accident and of the injury.

Buckle up, drive safely, and as always, your referrals are appreciated!

Call us today at (256) 333-5000.

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