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What is 'proximate cause' in a Houston motor vehicle accident?


Regular readers of this bog may recall that we have previously dealt with the general subject of 'negligence' in several posts. We have done this because negligence is one of the most often used legal theories during personal injury cases resulting from motor vehicle accidents. We have explained that there are several elements of negligence that must be shown for a plaintiff to succeed in a lawsuit against a defendant. Among these are duty, breach, causation and damages.

We have previously touched on duty and breach, noting that to be liable for injuries to another, a person must have had a legal duty to do or refrain from doing something, and that duty was breached in some way. We also published a post explaining that negligence causation is usually broken down into two components: direct or 'but for' causation, and 'proximate cause.' In that post, we dealt with direct causation, and that it basically means that the injury was, in fact, the result of the breach of the defendant's duty.

The other, often more complex, side of causation in negligence cases, is proximate cause. Rather than asking whether the injury was, in fact, the result of the defendant's action or inaction, proximate cause attempts to determine whether the injuries suffered were a 'foreseeable' result of the breach of duty. That is, could the type of harm that occurred be reasonably expected to result from the defendant's behavior.

While running a stop sign and hitting another car, causing damage to the axle which made the wheel fall off and creating a crash that injured the plaintiff, the crash may be a direct cause of the injuries. Other circumstances may make such a chain of events more, or less, foreseeable. If, for example, the wheel comes off the plaintiff's car three months after the crash with the defendant, and because of a large pothole that exacerbated the damage done to the axle, there may be an argument that the injuries suffered were not reasonably foreseeable, even if they were, in fact, a result of the defendant's actions.

Proximate cause issues can be some of the more complicated ones that come up in a personal injury trial. Those with questions about receiving just compensation for their injuries under a negligence theory may wish to consider consulting an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "Elements of a Negligence Case," October 8, 2017

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