In Florida, many personal injury cases are based on the theory of negligence.
Under this legal theory, a person may be financially responsible for any injuries they cause due to their failure to act with reasonable care.
An injured party must establish four elements to prove negligence:
- Duty. The defendant owed a duty of reasonable care to the plaintiff.
- Breach. The defendant breached their duty to exercise reasonable care.
- Causation. Their breach caused the plaintiff’s harm.
- Damages. The plaintiff suffered injury or other damages.
The third element is generally referred to as “causation.” In Florida, it is also called “legal cause” or “proximate cause.” According to the Florida Supreme Court, proximate cause “is concerned with whether and to what extent the defendant’s conduct foreseeably and substantially caused” the plaintiff’s injury.
In other words, the defendant’s negligent conduct must have caused the plaintiff’s injury, and this injury must have been foreseeable. While causation may seem straightforward, it is often one of the trickiest elements in a personal injury claim.
How Do I Prove Someone Else Caused My Injuries?
To prove causation in Florida, you must show that your injuries were a natural and direct consequence of the at-fault party’s actions. You achieve this by showing that the defendant’s behavior foreseeably and substantially contributed to your injuries or negligence. In other words, your injury would not have occurred but for the defendant’s conduct.
This concept is fairly straightforward. For example, say a driver runs through a stop sign and hits you as you are crossing the street. You break your leg in the collision. The driver’s conduct substantially contributed to your injuries. “But for” the driver running the stop sign and hitting you, you would not have suffered a broken leg.
What About Foreseeability?
After you prove the defendant substantially contributed to your injuries, you must also prove that your injuries were foreseeable. The foreseeability component of causation is concerned with fairness. A court won’t hold a defendant responsible for every harm their conduct causes, only those harms that are foreseeable.
You must typically demonstrate that you were a foreseeable victim of the defendant’s conduct, which caused foreseeable injuries. Their conduct cannot be too remote.
The classic case Palsgraf v. Long Island demonstrates how foreseeability works.
In Palsgraf, the plaintiff stood on a railroad platform as a train approached the station. Many yards away, a man hurried to board the train but stumbled. Two railroad employees rushed to assist the man and prevent him from falling. However, while helping the prospective passenger, the employees caused the man to drop a package.
It turns out the package had explosives. When it hit the ground, a large explosion knocked over some scales on the other side of the train station. These scales fell on the plaintiff and injured her.
At trial, the plaintiff proved the conduct of the railroad employees was negligent and that she sustained injuries. However, she could not prove causation. The court rationalized that it was not foreseeable that a plaintiff so far away would be injured by two employees negligently trying to prevent a man from falling. In other words, she was not a foreseeable victim of the railroad employees’ negligence.
The railroad employees, the falling passenger, and others near the area might have been foreseeable plaintiffs, but someone on the other side of the station was not.
What if the At-Fault Party is Accusing Me of Contributing to the Accident?
Accidents can, of course, have multiple causes. Multiple parties might share blame for an accident. Florida’s pure comparative negligence rule envisions such scenarios.
In Florida, you can recover damages even if you’re partially at fault for your accident. In fact, you can sue another party for your damages even if you are up to 99% to blame for the incident.
But . . . the comparative fault rules reduce your recovery of damages to account for your share of blame. For example, if you have $100,000 in damages but are 99% at fault for your injuries, you can only recover $1,000 (1%) worth of your damages.
This is why it’s critical to work with an experienced Gainesville personal injury lawyer to prove the other party caused your injuries. If they can show you also contributed to your injuries, you might take home less compensation than you deserve.
Contact a Gainesville Personal Injury Attorney for Help
In many cases, causation is easy to prove. In others, it’s much more complex, especially if there are multiple causes for an accident or if multiple people share blame for the same.
Our experienced personal injury attorneys know how to present the evidence in the most persuasive way to help prove causation in your case.
Contact Allen Law Firm, P.A today. for a free consultation to discuss your case.