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Causation is a crucial element in a personal injury claim. If you have been injured in an accident, the causal connection between another person’s actions and your injury is known in legal terms as causation.

Before an accident victim can be compensated for another person’s negligence, they must show that the other party was responsible. For example, the other person’s conduct in running a red light caused them to collide with your vehicle, and the accident would not have happened if not for their conduct.

Causation is a complex subject in personal injury cases, but it boils down to two key questions:

  1. Did the defendant’s act (or inaction) actually cause the plaintiff’s reasonably foreseeable injuries?
  2. Would the outcome not have occurred if not for the defendant’s conduct?

These questions address what are known as “direct cause” and “proximate cause” in personal injury cases. If the answers to these two questions are “yes”, the plaintiff is closer to proving causation and establishing the elements of negligence in a personal injury claim.

Proving the Elements of a Negligence Claim

Most personal injury cases are based on the legal theory of negligence. Negligence means that another person or entity failed to use reasonable care and caution to prevent an accident from happening.

To prove negligence in a personal injury case, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:

  1. Duty. That the defendant had a “duty of care” to the plaintiff and others. When driving on the road, for example, this means the person has a duty to follow traffic laws and drive safely. For a doctor or healthcare professional, this means following a standard of care similar to what another provider in their position would have done.
  2. Breach. That the defendant breached their duty of care. If a defendant failed to follow their duty of care under the first element, then a plaintiff can show there was a breach of duty, and the defendant should be held responsible for their conduct.
  3. Causation. That there was both direct and proximate cause between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s injuries. It is not enough to show that another person breached their duty of care and damages occurred. Plaintiffs must show a causal link between the alleged conduct and the plaintiff’s injuries.
  4. Damages. That the plaintiff sustained damages due to the defendant’s conduct. Damages can be proven through medical bills, property damage estimates, medical reports, expert testimony, and other methods. Damages can be monetary (bills and costs, for example) or non-monetary (pain and suffering or mental anguish, for example).

What Tests are Used to Show Legal Causation in a Personal Injury Claim?

Two common tests for proving causation are the “but for” test and the “substantial factor” test.

The “but for” test asks: would the plaintiff’s injuries have happened “but for” the defendant’s conduct? For example, if a person falls on a slick patch of liquid that a shop owner left unattended for hours, their fall would not have happened but for the owner’s failure to clean the spill. If they fell because a fellow shopper had just spilled a drink, however, it becomes difficult to prove the fall would have happened but for the shop owner’s inaction. The other shopper’s act becomes an intervening factor that can disprove causation in a personal injury claim.

The “substantial factor” test asks: was the defendant’s conduct a substantial factor in bringing about harm to the plaintiff? In a multi-vehicle accident, for example, the key question would be whether the defendant had a primary role in causing the crash. If the accident would have happened even without the defendant’s involvement, the causation element can’t be proven in court.

Other tests to prove causation can include the “foreseeability” test and the “remoteness” test. Under the foreseeability test, a jury could be asked whether the plaintiff’s injuries were a foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions. If a person sets off an explosion in their yard and it injures a next-door neighbor, that would be a reasonably foreseeable result of the person’s actions.

The remoteness test would ask whether the plaintiff’s injuries were too remote in connection with the defendant’s actions. Suppose a doctor changed a patient’s prescription, for example, and the patient goes on to harm someone a year later due to an alleged change in mental condition due to the medication. In that case, a judge or jury might find the connection between the two events was too remote for liability to apply.

How to Prove Causation in a Personal Injury Claim

Causation is critical to proving a negligence claim but can sometimes be tough to prove. An experienced personal injury lawyer in South Carolina will assemble evidence from the start of your case to show that the causation element is met. Evidence can include eyewitness testimony, video footage, police reports, physical evidence, and photos. The longer you wait to start your claim, however, the harder it gets to locate witnesses and key pieces of evidence to show causation.

Consult a South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer for Help Proving Causation

If you were injured, consult an attorney with valuable experience proving causation in personal injury claims in South Carolina. Proving the elements of personal injury claims, including causation, is crucial to recovering much-needed compensation. Contact The Jeffcoat Firm Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation with an experienced lawyer at (803) 373-1706.

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Columbia, SC 29201

(803) 373-1668

Jeffcoat Injury and Car Accident Lawyers

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Lexington, SC 29072

(803) 373-1302

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Orangeburg, SC 29115

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! NOTICE ! No Legal Advice Intended. This website includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal issues or problems.

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