Fighting For Boston Families For More Than A Decade

Personal Injury 2022
Better Business Bureau Accreditation
Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys
Medical Malpractice 2022
Massachusetts Bar Association
Best Lawyers
American Association for Justice
The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40

Proving Causation in Personal Injury Case

Causation is one of the most important parts of all the personal injury claims. Most personal injury cases are based on a theory that someone was negligent, which requires you to prove four different elements of negligence to recover damages.

To get help with your personal injury claim, the trusted personal injury lawyers at Sweeney Merrigan Law have the knowledge and experience to assist you in pursuing the maximum possible settlement amount for the losses you have suffered. To get started building your personal injury claim, fill out our contact form or call us at (617) 391-9001.

How to Know if You Should File a Personal Injury Claim

For your personal injury claim, you may be able to prove that a defendant was negligent if they did one of this four things:

  • Owed you a duty of care
  • Breached their duty of care
  • The breach caused your injuries
  • You experienced damages

Causation is the third element of a negligence claim. So, in every personal injury case, you must be able to prove that the defendant caused your injuries to recover compensation for your losses. If a person’s intentional act or negligence did not actually cause your injury, you most likely could not hold them liable. As a legal matter, causation is divided into two parts: 

  • Cause-in-fact or But-for Cause
  • Proximate Cause 

You must be able to prove both types of causation to satisfy the element. Our legal team may be able to help you prove both types of causation by going over the details of your claim. 

What Is Cause-In-Fact or Actual Cause?

Cause-in-fact is concerned with whether your injury would have occurred if not for the defendant’s conduct. Therefore, cause-in-fact, also known as actual cause, can be determined by a very simple test. 

The Cause-In-Fact Test: But-for Test  

Cause-in-fact is determined by the “but for” test. This test is relatively simple and straightforward as a legal matter. Whenever there is a personal injury claim based on negligence, you can determine the cause-in-fact by asking yourself the following question: For the defendant’s conduct, would there have been an injury?  This simple question determines whether the conduct of a defendant is the actual cause of an injury. It is applicable to any situation, whether simple or complex. 

For example, say a defendant runs a red light and collides with your car. You suffer whiplash and require medical treatment. The defendant’s conduct was the cause-in-fact of your injury. But for the defendant’s running the red light, you would not have suffered whiplash. Once the actual cause is proven, we move on to the proximate cause. 

What Is Proximate Cause?

Proximate cause is less straightforward than cause-in-fact. As its name suggests, it involves determining what falls within the proximity or the scope of causation. In other words, how far can causation go? You might see potential cases where there is a huge causal chain that ultimately results in someone’s injuries. For instance, the defendant runs the red light and hits you; you hit another driver, who hits another driver, who hits another driver, and so on.  

However, if this chain gets too long, unpredictable, or complex, it might not be fair to hold the initial person liable. Therefore, proximate cause is concerned with fairness and seeks to limit the defendant’s liability to foreseeable injuries to foreseeable plaintiffs.This can be better understood by way of the proximate cause test. 

The Proximate Cause Test 

The proximate cause test is not as simple as the but-for test. The proximate cause test requires you to ask two different questions about a set of facts or a specific situation. Let’s return to our example where the driver runs a red light and hits you. The questions you would ask are:

  • Should the driver have reasonably foreseen that his negligence would result in this kind of injury? 
  • Should the driver have reasonably foreseen that his negligence would result in injury to this specific plaintiff? 

In other words, the defendant will only be liable for foreseeable injuries to foreseeable plaintiffs. In our original example, the defendant is clearly the proximate cause of your injuries. They should have foreseen that running the red light could cause a crash and injuries with you, another driver on the road. However, in some cases there is a longer chain of events. For example, say our defendant runs the red light and hits you, and again you sustain whiplash. This time, you run into the car in front of you, inflicting a head injury to the driver. 

Reading this hypothetical situation, you may wonder whether the defendant can be held liable for the driver’s head injuries even though you were the one who actually collided with the driver. However, let’s try the proximate cause test. Could the defendant have reasonably foreseen that his running the red light would result in a multi-car accident that caused head injuries to another driver that he did not directly collide with? Most likely, yes. While such examples and explanations might help you determine whether there is causation in your personal injury case, these issues are incredibly complex. It is always best to consult with an attorney to determine whether a person negligently caused your injuries. 

What Evidence May Be Used to Prove Causation?

In most personal injury claims, there is generally one party that is at fault or liable while the other is the injured party. The injured party has the right to file a personal injury claim in order to pursue financial compensation for the losses they have suffered at the hands of the negligent party. In order to build a strong and valid personal injury claim, the injured party must be able to prove causation. 

If you have been involved in an accident, you may be wondering what evidence must be provided to prove causation when pursuing damages from the negligent party. The evidence that may be used to prove causation in a personal injury case includes:

Testimony of Expert Witnesses

An expert witness may not have been present at the scene of the accident but is allowed to testify in court because of special knowledge they possess in a particular field that is relevant to the case. This may include mechanical experts, medical professionals, or mental health experts. 

Police Report

The police report, or accident report, is an official document containing the details of the events that led to the accident. This report may provide a valuable description of how the defendant’s negligence led to your injuries and losses. 

Eyewitness Testimonies

If there are any eyewitnesses to your accident, having their official testimony will be key evidence in proving causation for your personal injury claim. 

Medical Bills

If you were injured as a result of your accident and had to seek medical treatment as a result, the documentation and bills are valuable proof of causation. 

If you are unsure of what evidence may be necessary to provide proof of causation for your personal injury case, it is important you contact one of our knowledgeable personal injury lawyers in Boston, Massachusetts. 

When you choose to work with Sweeney Merrigan Law you will have access to a team of award-winning personal injury lawyers. Our trusted legal team is led by our experienced co-managing partners, J. Tucker Merrigan and Peter M. Merrigan. J. Tucker Merrigan has been a co-managing partner of the firm for over a decade. He has been recognized for his work in the Massachusetts legal system with awards that include: Under 40, National Trial Lawyers; 2020-2021 Top Attorney Award. Our other co-managing partner, Peter M. Merrigan, has been recognized for his work helping the communities of Boston: 2018 Top 40 Under 40, National Trial Lawyers; 2021 Massachusetts “Super Lawyer.”

Get Help From a Boston Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have been involved in an accident, you have the legal right to file a personal injury claim. If you have questions about how to prove causation in a personal injury case, our team of Boston lawyers may be able to help. 

Call our office at (617) 391-9001 or reach out online to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Boston personal injury lawyer.