Proving Causation in a Personal Injury Case

Proving Causation in a Personal Injury Case

March 24, 2022

Ellis Law Corporation

Personal Injury

If you or someone you care about has been injured due to the actions of another individual or entity in California, then you should be able to recover money for your medical bills and lost wages. However, recovering compensation depends entirely on proving the other party’s negligence.

Determining negligence consists of four elements, one of which is causation. Here, we want to define causation and describe how to actually prove that causation exists.

The Four Elements of Negligence

Securing compensation for a personal injury claim revolves around determining whether or not the four elements of negligence are present:

  • Duty. This refers to the duty of care that a defendant (the person who allegedly caused the injury) owed to the plaintiff (the injury victim) in the first place. A duty of care will look different depending on what type of case we are discussing. For example, drivers on the roadway all owe a duty of care to others around them. This means they must operate their vehicle in a safe manner. Property owners, on the other hand, have a different duty of care. They must ensure that their premises are safe for those who have a right to be on the property.
  • Breach. A breach of duty occurs anytime a defendant fails to uphold the duty of care that they owe a plaintiff. Once again, the breach of duty will look different depending on what type of case we are discussing. Drivers can breach their duty of care by operating while impaired or distracted, or by violating traffic laws. Property owners can breach their duty of care by failing to warn patrons of a known hazard, such as a faulty stairway or loose floorboard.
  • Causation. Just because a breach of duty has occurred does not necessarily mean that a defendant’s actions directly caused a person’s injury. For example, there are plenty of instances of drunk drivers also becoming victims of a crash on the roadway. Just because a person is drunk does not necessarily mean that their actions caused the accident they are involved in (even though they were clearly driving in violation of a law). Determining causation can be challenging, as we will discuss in a moment.
  • Damages. Finally, the injury victim must have sustained some sort of monetary loss, which can include medical bills, lost income, property damage expenses, and more.

Proving Causation to Win a Claim

After establishing that a defendant breached their duty of care, it must be shown that their breach directly led to the injuries the plaintiff sustained. This can be challenging, and proving causation involves gathering various types of evidence.

Some of this evidence will have been gathered to establish that a defendant breached their duty of care in the first place, and other evidence gathered needs to show an insurance carrier or a personal injury jury that the breach “more than likely” caused the injury. Some of the most common types of evidence used in these cases to prove a breach of duty and causation include:

  • Statements from eyewitnesses who saw what happened
  • Statements from the defendant and plaintiff
  • Photographs taken at the scene of the incident
  • Video surveillance of the incident

It is not uncommon for causation to not be entirely clear, even after gathering evidence. It may be necessary for an injury victim and their Los Angeles personal injury attorney to work with an accident reconstruction expert who can use the evidence gathered as well as science and mathematics to put together a 3D rendering of what likely happened to show to an insurance carrier or a jury.