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What is 'cause in fact' in Houston negligence?

Houston drivers are likely aware that when motor vehicle accidents strike, lives can change in an instant. The aftermath of such crashes can result in terrible injuries, creating a situation in which a victim may need extensive, and expensive, medical treatment. Because of their injuries, the victim may be forced to miss time off work, with the resultant potential for loss of income. When an accident is caused by someone's carelessness on the roadways, it is possible that those injured have a legal cause of action that can be used in a claim to seek compensation for the injuries suffered.

Previously, we mentioned that the most common type of potential legal action is one for negligence. We also touched on what the basic elements for such a case are. Regular readers may remember that they are duty, breach, causation, and damages. A few weeks ago we took a slightly more detailed look at duty and breach, as the foundational element of a negligence claim. Today, let's discuss one aspect of another element: causation.

If duty and breach are the skeleton of a negligence claim, providing the basic framework for recovery, causation is the sinew, connecting the fact that someone didn't live up to their legal obligations to the fact that someone else suffered damages because of that failure. In negligence actions, causation is often broken into two pieces: direct or 'but-for' causation, and proximate causation.

Direct causation is what most people think of when they think of two temporally distinct events being connected. That is, it is what we normally mean when we say something "causes" something else. Because a car ran a red light, it hit a vehicle crossing the intersection. Or, worded another way, but for the running of the red light, the accident wouldn't have happened.

Of course, not all cases are so cut-and-dried. However, of the two kinds of causation, direct causation is usually the easier to prove, mostly because if you don't have direct causation, then proximate cause will not be present either. We will discuss the more complicated issue of proximate cause in a later post.

Source: FindLaw, "Elements of a Negligence Case," accessed September 18, 2017

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