Proximate cause is an important but often confusing aspect of criminal and civil liability that essentially deals with why an injury occurred. Also known as legal cause, the proximate cause in any injury case can be notoriously difficult to pin down.
This is because a proximate cause is not necessarily the last thing to occur before an injury, nor the event which set the proceeding series in motion. Courts focus rather on the proximate cause being the most important factor leading up to an injury – in other words, that without which the injury would not have occurred.
As a way of attempting to establish proximate cause, courts employ what is known as the “but-for” test. Sometimes referred to the sine qua non rule, this method asks, “but for what would this accident not have happened?”
For example, if an intoxicated person falls from a bridge after tripping on a workman’s improperly-stowed equipment at night, the workman might still be held accountable under the “but-for” test. While the person being intoxicated may have contributed to the likelihood of the accident, the specific injury as it occurred could not have taken place without the previous negligence.
This argument could be enhanced by pointing out that even someone who was sober might have tripped on the equipment if other conditions were the same.
The ability to prove proximate cause is a key part of any successful civil liability suit. Contact the experienced team of Stevens Point personal injury lawyers at the offices of Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. ® at 800-242-2874 to learn more about this difficult concept if you or someone you love has been injured by someone else’s negligence.