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Liability for a Personal Injury: Establishing Causation

Were you or was your loved one injured because of the careless, reckless, or unsafe actions of another party? If so, you may be entitled to compensation through a personal injury claim. In order to bring a successful personal injury claim in California, you must prove causation. 

California only imposes personal injury liability against a defendant whose negligence was a “substantial factor” in causing the accident. Here, our Stockton personal injury lawyers explain the most important things to understand about proving causation for an accident in California. 

A Key Element of a Personal Injury Claim: Proving Causation 

To hold a defendant legally responsible for an accident, a victim must prove that the defendant’s negligence (carelessness or recklessness) “caused” their injuries. It is a required element of a personal injury claim under California law. Without causation, there is no liability imposed against a defendant in California. 

As a simple example, imagine that you were hurt in a car crash in Downtown Stockton. There is no dispute that the other motorists ran a stop sign prior to the accident. Failure to stop at a stop sign is negligence in California. However, if the stop sign was run three blocks away, a minute prior to your crash, it would likely not be an issue in your case as it was negligence, but not causally related. 

Defining Causation in a California Personal Injury Claim: Substantial Factor

In many personal injury claims, the concept of causation can be complicated. Often, serious accidents have multiple overlapping causes. Trying to figure out which one(s) is the proximate cause (legal cause) is not always easy. If your friend called you for a ride and you were then involved in a crash, that phone call was a small “cause” in the accident—at least in a very literal sense. However, it is certainly not a legal cause. In the eyes of the law, it is not why the crash occurred. 

As explained in the Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI No. 430), an act or omission must be deemed a “substantial factor” in order to constitute a legal cause for the purpose of a personal injury claim. The state’s jury instruction defines the term substantial factor to mean “a factor that a reasonable person would consider to have contributed to the harm.” It cannot be merely remote or trivial, though it does not have to be the only cause in order to establish liability. 

Were You Hurt in a Serious Accident in Stockton, California?

We are here to help. At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton personal injury lawyers are aggressive, reliable advocates for victims. Our firm has recovered more than $25 million on behalf of victims and their family members. If you have any questions about proving causation for an accident, please call us now or connect with us directly online. Initial consultations are free and fully confidential. We represent injured victims in San Joaquin County and throughout Central California.