As the plaintiff in a personal injury case, you have the burden of proof to establish your case. Legal causation is integral to almost any personal injury claim. After all, the defendant will not be responsible for paying you any damages if you cannot show they caused your injury.
What Are the Elements of Negligence?
Most personal injury cases are based on negligence, which is defined by Florida law as a civil action for monetary damages brought by someone who suffered an injury because of the carelessness of someone else.
You must prove the following legal elements “by the preponderance of the evidence” to make your case:
Duty is the legal requirement to act a certain way or not act a certain way. Duty is sometimes based on the relationship between the parties, such as a doctor being required to provide a patient with the appropriate standard of care.
Other duties are established by law. For example, motorists have a duty to act safely and avoid causing collisions.
There is also a general duty of care that applies to most situations. Persons are expected to act as a “reasonably prudent person” would under the circumstances. There are exceptions, such as people that are mentally incompetent.
Breach of Duty
Breach of duty is what the defendant did or did not do to violate the legal duty they owed. For example, a truck driver who works past the hours of service limitations may be fatigued. Due to their less than ideal state, they cause a truck accident.
Another likely example of a breach of duty is running a red light. This breaches the duty of care to drive safely and obey traffic laws.
Next, is the subject of this article. Causation establishes a connection between the defendant’s breach of duty and the accident. You have to be able to show not only that you were injured but that you were injured because of the breach of duty.
Proving causation often requires evidence, such as the following:
- Accident reports
- Photos or videos of the accident scene
- Witness statements
- Electronic data recorder information
- Cell phone records
- Medical records
- Personnel records
In some cases, a personal injury lawyer may hire expert witnesses to prepare visual demonstrations or other evidence to help show causation.
The final element is damages. It is not enough to show you were injured or even that the defendant caused your injury. Instead, you must be able to show you suffered damages because of your injury.
In Florida personal injury cases, you can pursue compensation for economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include financial losses you suffered as a consequence of the accident, such as:
- Property damage
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Lost income
- Future lost income
- Lost support and services
- Any other economic loss that would not have occurred absent the injury
You can also recover non-economic damages, which may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Physical impairment
- Loss of capacity for enjoyment of life
Non-economic damages cannot be traced directly to a financial impact, so they can often be difficult to prove. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help compile evidence to establish these and other losses you have suffered.
In some cases, you may be able to seek punitive damages. These are different from other types of damages in that they are not intended to compensate the victim. Instead, they are intended to punish the defendant for particularly egregious behavior and prevent similar conduct in the future.
More Details on Causation
Legal causation has two distinct parts, and you have the responsibility to prove both in order to meet your burden of proof for causation. These are referred to as cause in fact and proximate cause. Here is what you need to know about these two aspects of the causation element of negligence.
Cause In Fact
Cause in fact means that the defendant’s actions actually caused the accident that injured you. Sometimes, this is known as “but for” causation – as in, the accident would not have occurred but for the defendant’s actions.
If the injury would have happened absent the defendant’s actions, this form of causation has not been proven. In such a case, you would not be able to recover compensation for the harm you suffered.
Proximate cause is the legal cause of an accident. This is often expressed in terms of foreseeability. The fact finder can ask whether the victim’s injury was reasonably foreseeable.
They can also consider whether there were alternatives that could have prevented the accident and the burden such alternatives would have imposed on the defendant.
A Trusted Orlando Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Prove Causation
If you have any questions about causation or the other legal elements of a negligence action, a knowledgeable Orlando personal injury lawyer can help. Because we offer a free case evaluation, you can contact us at (407) 648-1510 to learn more about your legal rights and options at no cost or obligation to you.