Kenny Habetz Injury Law | February 12, 2024 | Personal Injury
A personal injury case arises when you suffer an injury that the law holds someone else responsible for. Usually, but not always, the defendant is the at-fault party. Sometimes, the case is based on negligence; other times, it is based on intentional misconduct or recklessness.
The thread that runs through all cases, however, is that you must establish causation to win your claim. Louisiana law recognizes two forms of causation: cause in fact and proximate cause.
What Is Cause in Fact?
To say that Event X was the cause in fact of Result Y is to say that if X had not happened, Y would not have happened either. If the defendant had not run the red might, for example, they would not have collided with the victim, there would have been no car accident, and the victim would not have suffered a broken leg.
Cause in fact can exist without proximate cause, but (except in rare instances) proximate cause cannot exist without cause in fact.
What Is Proximate Cause?
When determining whether proximate cause is present, we must ask whether there is a reasonably foreseeable relationship between the defendant’s act or omission and the plaintiff’s injury. In other words, is it reasonably foreseeable that the defendant’s conduct would lead to the type of injuries sustained by the plaintiff?
The purpose of the proximate cause requirement is to prevent the legal system from holding a defendant liable for a freak accident that nobody could have foreseen.
Examples of Proximate Cause
Following are some examples of scenarios in which proximate cause is an issue:
- A participant in recreational ziplining suffers an injury when the zipline fails. The company argues that the victim failed to follow safety rules. It was this failure, not the defective zipline, that was the proximate cause of the accident, according to the company. This defense is unlikely to succeed.
- An employee with a back injury re-injures their back at work while lifting heavy equipment. The employer asserts that the proximate cause of the employee’s injury was their own pre-existing back injury, not the heavy load they were lifting. This claim probably will not prevail, but it might.
- A self-driving car hits a pedestrian. The pedestrian asserts that a glitch in the car’s technology caused the accident, while the car manufacturer asserts that the pedestrian’s jaywalking was the proximate cause. This one could go either way.
- A power outage in a shopping mall shuts off the lights. A shopper files a premises liability claim after suffering a slip and fall accident. The shopper slipped on a spilled liquid that could not be seen in the dark. Which was the proximate cause of the accident–the wet floor or the power outage? Lawyers could argue either way.
- A medical patient dies after a doctor misdiagnoses the patient’s condition. However, the doctor argues that the patient’s failure to provide an accurate medical history was the proximate cause of the death. This one could go either way.
- A football player suffers a head injury during a game. The player was wearing an old helmet that did not provide as much protection against head injuries as modern helmets. Lawyers argue over whether the proximate cause of the player’s injury was the substandard helmet or the inherent risk in the game of football (the ‘assumption of the risk’ defense).
- A construction worker suffers an injury from a construction site accident due to faulty scaffolding. The case is complex because several different contractors were involved in erecting and inspecting the scaffolding. Determining proximate cause could turn out to be very tricky.
- A multi-car pileup occurs during an ice storm. Several drivers sue other drivers, and each defendant asserts that the weather, not their driving, was the proximate cause of the accident. This defense is likely to prevail.
The determination of whether the defendant’s behavior amounted to proximate cause depends on the particular facts of the case.
An Experienced Louisiana Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Establish Proximate Cause
In some personal injury cases, the existence of proximate cause is a given that you don’t need to offer any special evidence in favor of. In other cases, the issue is murky. In the latter circumstance, you need the assistance of an experienced Louisiana personal injury attorney. Almost any Louisiana personal injury lawyer will schedule you for a free initial consultation, at which time you can learn about your legal options.
Contact the Louisiana Personal Injury Law Firm Of Kenny Habetz Injury Law for Help Today
If you’ve been injured in Louisiana, please call Kenny Habetz Injury Law for a free case evaluation with a Louisiana personal injury lawyer or contact us online. We have offices in Lafayette and Crowley, LA.