Proximate Cause Under U.S. Law

In U.S. common law, proximate cause refers to the legal concept that a defendant can only be held liable for the harm caused by their actions if that harm was a foreseeable and direct result of their conduct.

To establish proximate cause, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant’s actions were the immediate cause of the harm suffered by the plaintiff, and that the harm suffered was a natural and probable consequence of the defendant’s conduct. In other words, the harm must be a direct result of the defendant’s actions, and not the result of some other intervening cause.

Courts often use a “but for” test to determine whether the defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of the harm. This means that the plaintiff must demonstrate that “but for” the defendant’s actions, the harm would not have occurred.

In addition to the “but for” test, courts may also consider other factors, such as the foreseeability of the harm, the extent of the defendant’s culpability, and the policy implications of holding the defendant liable for the harm.

What is an example of proximate cause?

An example of proximate cause is when a driver runs a red light and collides with another car, causing injury to the occupants of that car. The driver’s action of running the red light is the proximate cause of the injuries sustained by the occupants of the other car, as it was the direct and foreseeable consequence of the driver’s actions. However, if the occupants were not wearing their seatbelts, and their injuries were worsened as a result, the driver’s actions may not be the proximate cause of the full extent of their injuries.

Why is proximate important in personal injury cases?

Proximate cause is an important concept in U.S. common law because it helps to establish the link between a defendant’s actions and the harm suffered by the plaintiff, and it limits the scope of a defendant’s liability to only those harms that are directly and foreseeably caused by their conduct. Know your case and prepape!