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Definition - What does Causation mean?

For personal injury claims, causation is the ability of one person's actions to injure another person. For example, it's the cause and effect relationship between the defendant's omission or actions which lead to the alleged damages of the plaintiff in a civil case.

Causation is one element which must be proven to win a personal injury claim. Other elements include establishing a duty or responsibility for the safety of others; proving the defendant breached the duty of care of the defendant towards the plaintiff; causation (as mentioned above); and proving the negligence of the defendant caused the injury to the plaintiff.

Proving causation

To prove causation in an injury case the plaintiff must prove the defendant's actions or negligent conduct were the cause of their injury. If the plaintiff's injuries would have occurred without the defendant's negligent actions, then the plaintiff has not proved causation and would not be entitled to compensation.

In addition to proving causation the plaintiff must also prove proximate cause, which means the defendant should have had some idea or been able to foresee that their negligence could have injured the plaintiff. For example, could a driver have known that driving their car into a restaurant would create a "reasonable relationship" of risk and injury to the patrons of the restaurant?

If the defendant could have foreseen that their negligent action could cause injury they can be held liable for damages to all injured parties. If the injuries were not foreseeable, proximate causation is not present, and the defendant is not liable. The bottom line is there must be a causal connection established between negligent conduct and harm or injury.

Evidence to prove causation

In a civil case causation must be proven through a preponderance of evidence. The burden of proof will rest with the plaintiff, which simply means the plaintiff must present enough evidence to the court to prove the defendant's actions caused the plaintiff's injury.

Cases such as medical malpractice claims can be especially hard to prove because in many cases the plaintiff is alleging injury, but in some cases their injuries could arguably have been a result of the plaintiff's pre-existing condition, for which they sought medical treatment, not the negligence of a doctor.

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