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Causation in Negligence Cases

After proving duty and causation, a plaintiff in a negligence case must also prove that the breach caused damages.

Causation comes in two forms: proximate cause and factual cause.

Both types of causation must exist to prove negligence.

Proximate Cause and Factual Cause

Causation Direct and Proximate Cause, also known as legal cause, is the immediate reason damage was caused by an act or omission (negligence); the negligence must have caused the damages, without intervention of another party, and cannot be remote in time or place.

Example (from a complaint): "Defendant's negligent acts (speeding and losing control of his vehicle) directly and proximately caused plaintiff's injuries."

Like duty analysis, the legal cause determination may also involve the court asking whether the injury was a reasonably foreseeable result of the negligent act or omission.

Factual cause is usually described as "but for" cause, and usually requires the plaintiff to prove that "but for" defendant's neglligent act or omission, the injury would not have occurred.

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