Causation as an Element of a Personal Injury Claim

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The third element of a personal injury claim is causation. This is often the most difficult part of a claim for an injury victim to understand.

However, once it is carefully explained, the victim usually understands what is meant when an attorney tells her that a victim must prove causation before a jury will make a monetary award of damages.

Once it is shown that there was a duty and a breach of duty it must be shown that there was a causal link between the breach of duty or negligence and the harm. In other words, you have to prove that the negligence caused the harm. This is the element of causation.

It is easiest to understand this in a car crash case. Sometimes causation is clear and easy to prove. For example, when there is a rollover car crash where the victim is thrown from the care and has a broken leg immediately after a rollover crash, there is clear causation.

It will be obvious that the victims did not have a broken leg while driving to the store. It should be easy to show that the car crash caused the bone to break.

Nevertheless, in many cases, the element of causation is not so easily demonstrated.

Many people have medical problems before they get into a crash. Then the question becomes what injury is from the crash and what injury pre-existed the crash. It is common to see this with accidents involving older injury victims.

As we get older our bodies don’t work as well as they used to. People develop arthritis, have weakened bones or ligaments. It is common for there to be degeneration of the spinal cord as we age and well before a victim is in a crash. Then the question becomes, how do you prove that this injury was caused by the crash.

Proof that a car crash caused an injury usually comes in through medical testimony. The treating doctor testifies that the injury is from the crash. A doctor may also conclude that while there was a condition that existed prior to the crash, the pain from the crash was new and therefore that was caused by the accident even if arthritis did not.

In more complicated cases a private medical expert may be retained to testify in the case. They must be able to testify that it is more likely than not that the injury was caused by the crash. This is the legal standard known as proving something by the preponderance of the evidence.

This part of the claim is often the focus of a defense by the insurance company lawyer. The go through every record they can get their hands on to show that the victim is making everything up or exaggerating her injury.

They seek to create doubt surrounding the question of whether the injury was caused by the crash. If they can show that there is no causation, then there will be no award for the injuries that are unrelated to the motor vehicle crash.

If you were injured due to someone else’s negligence, call Whitener Law Firm to find out what we can do to get you the money you deserve. For a free consultation regarding a personal injury claim, contact us at 505-883-7877.

There is NO FEE unless we win your case.


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