Were you hurt in an accident in Stockton? You may be entitled to compensation through a personal injury claim. Bringing a successful personal injury claim in California requires establishing liability, usually through negligence. You have to prove that the defendant is responsible for your accident.
To prove negligence, you must establish causation. The defendant’s conduct must be not just the “actual” cause of your accident, but the “proximate cause.” Most often, proving proximate cause requires proving that the defendant could have foreseen that their acts could have caused an injury
Within this article, our Stockton personal injury lawyer provides a comprehensive overview of the most important things that you should know about the role of proximate cause, foreseeability, and negligence in a personal injury claim in California.
Background: Causation is a Required Element of Negligence
For the most part, personal injury liability in California is based on negligence. As stated clearly in Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI No. 400), causation is a fundamental element in determining negligence. It is the link between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s injury or harm. In order for a plaintiff to successfully prove negligence, they must be able to establish that the defendant’s actions or omissions were the cause of their injury. Without causation, a negligence claim cannot be successful.
Understanding the Difference Between Cause-in-Fact and Proximate Causation
Causation is a lot more complicated than many people realize. It is important to understand the differences between cause-in-fact and proximate cause. Here is an overview of how these terms are defined in the context of a California personal injury claim:
- Cause-in-Fact: Cause-in-fact, also known as “but for” causation, is the actual cause of an event or injury.
- Proximate Cause: Proximate cause, also known as legal cause, is the cause that is considered sufficient to make one legally responsible for an event or injury.
The difference can be best illustrated through an example. Imagine that your friend asked you to give them a ride to a grocery store in Stockton. Along the way, your vehicle is hit by a distracted driver who blew through a red light. You sustained a significant injury in the crash.
Did your friend’s request “cause” the accident? Technically, it could be considered a “cause-in-fact”, as you would not have been on the road at all if they had not made the request for a ride. However, it is not a proximate cause. The legal cause of the accident is the driver running the red light.
California Personal Injury Law: Foreseeability is a Key Component of Proximate Cause
In California personal injury law, foreseeability is a key component of proximate cause. As noted previously, proximate cause is the legal principle that limits the liability of a defendant to those causes that are closely connected to the injury and that a reasonable person would have foreseen. Foreseeability is used to determine whether the defendant’s actions or omissions were the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
For example, imagine that you were hurt in a slip and fall accident at a retail business in Stockton. Is the property owner liable for the accident? It would depend, in part, on whether your slip and fall was caused by a reasonably foreseeable safety hazard. If a spill was reported to a manager and yet no action was taken for more than one hour to clean it up, it is reasonably foreseeable that a person could suffer a serious fall injury as a result. Liability may be imposed against the business.
Causation is Determined On a Case-By-Case Basis: A Thorough Investigation is Crucial
Foreseeability is a highly fact-specific issue and it varies from case to case. Whether an event or injury is foreseeable is determined by looking at all the circumstances surrounding the case. A comprehensive investigation by a lawyer is essential in order to gather all the necessary information and evidence to prove whether an event or injury was foreseeable. Our Stockton, CA personal injury lawyers are standing by, ready to conduct a proactive investigation of your accident—gathering and organizing all of the evidence that you need to prove proximate cause, impose liability, and secure the maximum available financial compensation.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a Stockton Personal Injury Lawyer Today
At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton accident & injury attorneys are standing by, ready to help you fight for justice. If you have any questions or concerns about foreseeability and negligence in a personal injury claim, we are more than ready to help. Contact us today to set up your zero cost, zero obligation initial legal consultation. With an office in Stockton, we handle the full range of personal injury claims in the San Joaquin Valley and throughout North Central California.