The Difference Between Actual & Proximate Cause | Scott Goodwin Law

Do You Have a Personal Injury Claim? Understanding Proximate and Actual Cause

by / Friday, 05 February 2021 / Published in Personal Injury
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When you’re dealing with a personal injury lawsuit of any kind, the key question is going to be whether or not the defendant was responsible for a person’s injuries through an act of negligence. In some cases, the answer to this question is clearer than it is in others. Negligence is an extremely important part of any personal injury case and there are certain criteria to meet for an act to be considered negligence and there are several different types of negligence.

In addition to all the qualifications that need to be met for something to be considered negligence, the act needs to be both the actual and proximate cause of an accident.

What’s the Difference Between Actual & Proximate Cause?

The concept of actual cause is fairly straightforward. Simply, it’s the most direct cause of an accident. Would an accident have occurred if it weren’t for that action? For example, if an employer had removed a dangerous condition from the workplace when they first became aware of it, would it have prevented a worker from being injured later on? Or if a driver hadn’t been texting while driving, would they have seen a red light and stopped before hitting another driver?

Proximate cause is a little more complex of a concept. Essentially, proximate cause means that the actions of the defendant were reasonably closely related to the plaintiff’s injuries. Sometimes, there can be situations where a defendant’s actions might have technically caused an injury-causing accident, but the outcome of that event was so unforeseeable that the defendant wouldn’t be held liable.

For example, in the case of a car accident caused by a texting driver running a red light, distracted driving would be both the actual and proximate cause of the accident. The accident wouldn’t have occurred if the driver had been paying attention to the road instead of sending a text. The driver also should have also reasonably known that taking their eyes off the road to send a text could lead to an accident. But, on the other hand, let’s say that a burglar gets severely burned because they landed on a hot stove after climbing in through a person’s kitchen window. While it’s true that the burglar would not have been burned if the stove hadn’t been left on, it’s also true that the homeowner likely would not have reasonably expected anyone to be climbing in through their kitchen window — especially someone who wasn’t legally entering the home in the first place.

Get Help From a Michigan Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been injured in any kind of accident, whether it’s a car accident, dog attack, jobsite accident, or motorcycle accident, the best thing you can have is a lawyer who can fight for you. After an accident, you’ll likely have insurance companies who want you to settle for less. At Goodwin & Scieszka, you’ll be able to talk to a personal injury lawyer who can help you understand your rights and work with you to get all of the compensation that you need. We’re highly experienced in handling a wide range of accident cases and are ready to help you, too. Contact us today to get started.

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