How actual and proximate cause relate to each other
If you have been injured in a car accident, you may already know about the elements to prove a negligence, such as a duty owed to the injured person by the defendant, the breach of that duty, actual and proximate cause of injury, and damages. But how does "proximate cause" differ from "actual cause"?
Actual causation, or cause-in-fact, requires the plaintiff to show that he or she would not have suffered the injury but for some action that the defendant took (or in other situations, that the injury was caused by the failure of the defendant to take a necessary action).
Proximate causation serves as a way of limiting the scope of the defendant's potential responsibility by excluding injuries to the plaintiff which are not directly linked to the act or omission that caused the actual harm. Courts in Florida use proximate causation to limit the scope of the damages that a plaintiff can claim to those which could have been foreseen at the time the original injury occurred. Foreseeability depends upon what the risks to the plaintiff that the defendant could reasonably have foreseen as a direct result of his actions.
This post provides only an introduction to the concept of actual and proximate causation. In a jury trial in connection with a car accident or any other negligence-based lawsuit, the decision about foreseeability rests in the hands of the jury, or the judge in a non-jury trial. It is up to the plaintiff's personal injury attorney to demonstrate the foreseeability of the plaintiff's injuries in order to avoid the preclusion of damages claims.