Important Elements Required in Personal Injury Claims: “Causation” Overview
Accidents can happen to anyone, but when the accident has been caused by another’s wrongdoing, the ability to seek compensation is possible. By filing a personal injury claim in the State of California, the injured party can hold the party who caused the accident responsible for their actions.
Every personal injury claim will demand a thorough investigation of the facts. A shared factor all successful claims have is the ability to establish the other party’s negligence. Negligence is the single most important factor in a personal injury claim and it is used to determine fault and responsibility for a party’s reckless misconduct that resulted in another’s harm.
How to Establish Negligence
The term negligence is used when a person, business, or agency fails to carry out a certain standard of conduct. For instance, when a person fails to carry out an act that an otherwise reasonable person would, this can constitute negligence. Similarly, when a person commits an act that an otherwise reasonable person would, his or her actions can constitute negligence.
When an individual suffers an injury or loss as a result of a violation of the standard of care, the law states that he or she can be compensated by the culpable party through a personal injury claim. To achieve a favorable outcome after filing a personal injury claim, there are important elements that should be highlighted to establish negligence. The party filing the claim, or plaintiff, will need to demonstrate the following to establish the at-fault party’s, or defendant’s, negligence:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
- The defendant breached the duty of care;
- The defendant’s actions caused the incident; and
- The accident resulted in the plaintiff’s damages.
The inability to establish each of the four elements of negligence will result in a failed personal injury claim. For purposes of this article, we will analyze the third element required to establish negligence – causation.
Causation, or Cause in Fact
To unpack the theory of causation, it is important to discuss why the accused party can be held accountable. In California, there are situations that can create a legal responsibility between the defendant and the plaintiff. A legal responsibility, or duty of care, can arise when the law recognizes that a relationship between both parties exists. As a result of an existing relationship, the defendant was legally obligated to exercise reasonable care toward the plaintiff that another reasonable party would under similar circumstances. When the defendant has failed to use reasonable care either through reckless behavior or a lack of action, this is referred to as a breach in duty of care.
Theoretically, causation will demonstrate the correlation between the defendant’s breach of duty and the plaintiff’s injuries, damages, or losses. The plaintiff will need to demonstrate that the defendant’s actions were the cause of his or her damages. Traditionally, this is referred to as a but-for postulation, meaning that if it was not for the defendant’s wrongful actions, the plaintiff’s damages would not have transpired. To effectively demonstrate causation, the presence of negligence alone is insufficient. Even if the defendant was somehow negligent, the plaintiff is tasked with demonstrating that the negligence led to his or her damages.
The following are a few examples where a cause in fact exists:
- Traffic accidents – A person has made the decision to drive while disoriented as a result of heavy intoxication. Soon after merging into traffic, the intoxicated driver loses control of the vehicle and collides with another driver. After being struck, the second driver has suffered a serious traumatic brain injury.
Drivers in California have a duty to drive in a responsible manner to avoid injury to themselves or others. By drinking and driving, this person has disregarded his or her legal obligation to drive safely, ultimately breaching his or her duty of care. Causation: If the drinking and driving had not occurred, the injured driver would not have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
- Medical Malpractice – An obstetrician is fatigued after multiple consecutive days at work. When in the delivery room, the licensed professional has failed to immediately recognize the patient’s signs of distress and the need for an emergency C-section. By delaying the C-section, the infant suffered permanent brain damage caused by hypoxia, a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Licensed health care workers in California have a legal responsibility to follow a standard of care other healthcare professionals would follow, given a similar professional background and under similar circumstances. By failing to recognize apparent distress in the delivery and failing to schedule an emergency C-section, the obstetrician has breached the medical standard of care. Causation: If the obstetrician had not been exhausted, he or she would have recognized the signs of distress and an emergency C-section would have been scheduled on time, avoiding the infant’s brain damage.
- Premises Liability – A property owner has made note to fix the unstable staircase in the apartment complex but has failed to do so, even after repeated concerns raised by the tenants. The staircase has not been restricted from use and a warning of the potential for danger has also not been placed by the property owner. One day, the staircase collapses, crushing a tenant walking down it. The tenant sustained a skull fracture and a broken leg in the incident.
Property owners in the state have an obligation to check for hazards that could lead to the bodily harm of those who legally enter the property. When a potentially dangerous condition is found, property owners are legally obligated to repair the condition and/or warn those in the property about the risk of danger. By failing to warn about the unstable staircase and failing to make necessary repairs, the property owner in the scenario has breached the duty of care for property owners in California. Causation: If the property owner had fixed the staircase promptly or restricted its use over the risk of injury, the tenant would not have used the unstable staircase and he or she would not have suffered a fractured skull and a broken leg.
After an Accident, Defend Your Right to Compensation With the Support of a Qualified Litigator
Injuries suffered as a consequence of another’s negligence can cause complete devastation in one’s life. In the State of California, certain parties can hold certain responsibilities to avoid the injury of others. When an accident transpires as a result of negligence, the offender can be held liable for the damages sustained by an injured party.If you were recently injured in an accident that was caused by another’s action, seek the legal guidance of a qualified litigator who can defend your right to a fair compensation.
The litigators at the Law Offices of Attorney Justin H. King are exceptionally qualified in a wide-range of complex personal injury cases. For over ten years, the firm has successfully advocated on behalf of injured clients, helping them secure the financial compensation they deserved. After a negligent accident has caused you harm, speak to an attorney with the right skills and experience; consider scheduling a no-obligation consultation with the Law Offices of Attorney Justin H. King today.