Examples of Proximate Cause in a Fort Mill Personal Injury Case

Examples of Proximate Cause in a Fort Mill Personal Injury Case

Causation is the logical link between wrongful conduct (negligence, for example) and a victim’s harm. Unless someone’s conduct caused the harm that the defendant is complaining about, there is no personal injury claim. 

An injury caused purely by inclement weather, for example, cannot justify a personal injury claim. South Carolina law recognizes two types of causation: actual cause and proximate cause.

What Is Actual Cause?

An event or condition is the ‘actual cause’ of an accident if you can honestly say that the accident would not have occurred without it. If Driver A had not run the red light, for example, Driver B would not have suffered a broken leg. 

Establishing actual cause is a precondition for establishing proximate cause. Actual cause can be present without proximate cause, but proximate cause cannot be present unless actual cause is also present.

What Is Proximate Cause?

Proximate cause, also known as proximate causation, is a cause that is near enough, direct enough, and natural enough to justify holding the negligent party liable for monetary damages. 

In a negligence case, for example, the plaintiff’s harm must be a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s breach of duty. Ultimately, this is more of a legal question than a factual question.

Under certain circumstances, the proximate cause of an accident can be different from the actual cause. When this happens, proximate cause is the ultimate, underlying cause of the accident, while actual cause is more superficial. 

Examples of Cases Where Actual Cause and Proximate Cause Are Present 

Below are some examples of cases where actual cause and proximate cause are present:

  • A car accident caused by drunk driving: Stan drives his car home from a bar while intoxicated. He collides with another car and thereby injures Sarah. Stan’s decision to drive drunk is the actual cause of Sarah’s injuries. If John had not driven drunk, there would have been no car accident, and Sarah would not have been injured.
    Stan’s decision is also the proximate cause of the accident because it is foreseeable that driving drunk will lead to an injury accident. 
  • Slip and fall in a supermarket: A supermarket employee mops the floor but forgets to erect a “Wet Floor” sign. Denise slips on the wet floor and fractures her arm. The actual cause of the injury is the wet floor—had the floor not been wet, Denise would not have suffered her injury. Proximate cause is also present because it is foreseeable that a wet floor with no warning sign can cause a slip and fall accident.
  • Medical malpractice: Dr. Deacons, a surgeon, performs surgery on Tom and leaves a scalpel inside his body. Tom suffers complications and requires surgery to remove the scalpel. The actual cause is the presence of the scalpel inside Tom’s body.
    The proximate cause is Dr. Deacons’ negligence since it is foreseeable that leaving an instrument inside a patient will cause injury.
  • Defective consumer product: A manufacturer produces a load of defective toasters that overheat and catch fire. Brenda purchases one of them and it malfunctions, setting her kitchen on fire and burning her. The actual cause of the fire is the defective toaster.
    The proximate cause is the manufacturer’s negligence in allowing a dangerous product to appear on the market. It is foreseeable that a malfunctioning toaster could cause a fire and burn the user.

Actual cause and proximate cause are identical in most but not all cases.

Examples of Cases Where Actual Cause and Proximate Cause Differ

The resolution of a claim gets more complicated when actual cause and proximate cause diverge. Below are some examples:

  • A freeway pileup: Larry runs a red light and hits another car driven by Mona. The collision causes Mona’s car to hit a pedestrian, Jim. The actual cause of Jim’s injury is the impact of Mona’s car. The proximate cause of Jim’s injury is Larry’s failure to stop at the red light. Although Jim was hit by Mona’s car, it was Larry’s negligence that set off the chain of events leading to Jim’s injury. Therefore, Larry’s actions are the ultimate cause of Jim’s injuries.
  • Negligent security leading to assault: Imagine that a nightclub with a rough crowd hires an inadequate number of bouncers. One night, a customer, Rod, assaults Kevin, another customer. The actual cause of Kevin’s injuries is Rod’s assault. The proximate cause is the nightclub’s failure to provide sufficient security staff, which would probably have prevented the assault. The nightclub’s failure to ensure adequate security was a foreseeable cause of Kevin’s injury. That made it the proximate cause, even though it was Rod’s bellicosity that was the direct cause of Tom’s injuries.
  • School bus accident due to poor road conditions: A school bus driver, Elsie, loses control of the bus on a road filled with potholes, causing an accident that injures a dozen students. The actual cause of the accident was the collision of the bus wheels with the potholes. The proximate cause was the local government’s failure to properly maintain the road. Poor road maintenance qualifies as the proximate cause of the accident because it is a foreseeable possible cause of a bus accident.

When actual cause and proximate cause aren’t identical, it can be more difficult to establish liability.

A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You Fight for Your Rights

You might need a personal injury attorney to help you establish proximate cause in a personal injury claim. You don’t need to worry about money. As long as you have a strong claim, you shouldn’t have any problem finding a South Carolina lawyer to take your case on a contingency fee basis. 

Hiring a lawyer can greatly multiply the value of your claim, especially with respect to abstract damages like pain and suffering.

Contact The Fort Mill Personal Injury Lawyers At Elrod Pope Accident & Injury Attorneys For Help Today

For more information, please contact our Fort Mill personal injury lawyers in South Carolina at Elrod Pope Accident & Injury Attorneys to schedule a free consultation today.

We proudly serve York County, Lancaster County, and its surrounding areas:

Elrod Pope Accident & Injury Attorneys – Rock Hill Office
212 E Black St,
Rock Hill, SC 29730
(803) 324-7574
Open 24hrs

Elrod Pope Accident & Injury Attorneys – Lancaster Office
204 A S Main St,
Lancaster, SC 29720
(803) 902-7065
Open 24hrs

Elrod Pope Accident & Injury Attorneys – Fort Mill Office
1201 Carolina Pl Suite 102D,
Fort Mill, SC 29708
(803) 902-4045
Open 24hrs

Elrod Pope Accident & Injury Attorneys – Lake Wylie Office
264 Latitude Ln #102A,
Lake Wylie, SC 29710
(803) 902-3608
Open 24hrs