Hall Law Personal Injury Attorneys 825 Nicollet Mall, Suite 615 Minneapolis, MN 55402 personal injury and car accident lawyer in Minneapolis

What Is Causation?

Get a Free Consultation
What Is Causation?

The element of causation must be present in almost every personal injury claim. Without the element of causation, the victim usually has no valid personal injury complaint.

This remains true no matter how wrongful the other party’s behavior may have been.

The Two Kinds of Causation

The Two Kinds of Causation

Personal injury law recognizes two distinct types of causation. The first type is known as “cause in fact,” otherwise known as  the “but-for” test.” The other type is proximate cause. In most cases, the victim must establish both types of causation to win their claim.

Cause in Fact

This first type of causation requires you to prove that “but-for” the actions of the at-fault party, the accident wouldn’t have happened. “If Joe had not run the traffic light, the accident would not have occurred,” for example. You must establish cause in fact to win your claim. Nevertheless, cause in fact alone is not enough.

Proximate Cause

Remember this: cause in fact plus proximate cause equal legal cause. Once you establish cause in fact, you must then establish proximate cause. Since “proximate” means “nearby,” proximate cause means a cause closely related to the event it causes. Establishing a remote cause is not enough to win a personal injury claim.

For example, suppose that a subway station employee inappropriately pushes a passenger onto a subway car just as the doors are closing. This causes the passenger to drop their briefcase onto the platform.  

The briefcase contained explosives, and when the impact set off the explosion, they injured a woman standing 25 feet away. The woman then sued the subway station for causing her injuries. Because the subway station employee could not have reasonably foreseen that pushing someone onto a train would injure a woman standing 25 feet away, the subway was not responsible for the woman’s injuries.

The moral of this story is that to establish proximate cause, you must establish that a reasonable person could have reasonably foreseen the effect that it caused. If the effect was not reasonably foreseeable, proximate cost is not present, and the personal injury claim fails. 

Most personal injury claims are based on negligence. To win a negligence claim you must prove the following facts:

  • Duty of care;
  • Breach of the duty of care (negligence) ;
  • Damages; and
  • Causation (between negligence and damages).

To win your claim, you must prove each of these four facts (legal elements) by the “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof. Failure to prove even one of them will doom your claim. 

The “Preponderance of the Evidence” Standard

It is much easier to prove a fact by the preponderance of the evidence standard than it is to prove the same fact by the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard that prevails in criminal prosecutions. 

The preponderance of the evidence standard is the “more likely than not” standard. You establish a preponderance of the evidence as soon as you produce enough evidence to establish that the fact you are trying to prove is more likely than not to be true. You might also call this standard the 51% standard.

Comparative Fault

While investigating your claim, you might discover that the actions of the defendant were not the complete cause of the accident that harmed you. In fact, you might have been partially responsible for the accident yourself. Courts distribute fault among the parties in most car accident claims and in many other types of personal injury claims. Minnesota has developed a legal doctrine known as modified comparative fault to deal with this state of affairs.

Under the doctrine of comparative fault, a court will distribute responsibility for an accident on a percentage basis. For example, you might be 20% responsible for the accident, while the  defendant may be 80% responsible. 

In this case, you would lose 20% of your compensation, and the defendant would only need to pay you 80%. Nevertheless, if you were more than 50% responsible for the accident you would receive no compensation under Minnesota law.

Comparative Fault in Settlement Negotiations 

Most people resolve their claims through settlement, not through trial. So how do you assign percentages of fault when there is no court to do it for you? Well, that becomes another negotiable issue. You and the other party must work out a compromise. 

That compromise will probably reflect whatever you believe a court would do if your claim made it to trial. You might need a lawyer to help you negotiate this issue so that the insurance adjuster doesn’t “nickel and dime you to death.”

You Don’t Need To Pay a Minneapolis Personal Injury Attorney Unless You Win Your Case

Almost every Minneapolis personal injury lawyer charges their legal fees on a contingency fee basis.  This means you don’t have to pay anything upfront. it also means that you won’t owe anything unless your lawyer wins your claim. 

For this purpose, ”wins” means victory in court or a settlement value above zero.  The contingency fee system gives everyone access to the legal system, regardless of whether they can afford to pay legal fees. Contact or call Hall Law Personal Injury Attorneys to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Minneapolis personal injury attorney at (800) 292-1979.

Call Now Button