Personal Injury Cases: Examples of Proximate Cause

Personal Injury Attorney Meeting with Client
Every day, thousands of people suffer injuries. In 2018, medical professionals treated over 97 million injuries in emergency departments, while doctors treated more than 24 million injuries in medical offices. These injuries stem from accidents at home, in the community, or in transit. 

Many accident victims have grounds to pursue compensation for medical expenses and loss of income from injuries sustained in their accidents. Some states also allow injured persons to seek compensation for pain and suffering if they have a valid proximate cause case. Understanding proximate cause and how proximate cause impacts your legal rights can help you determine if you should pursue a personal injury lawsuit.

What is proximate cause?

Proximate cause applies when something or someone is legally responsible for a person’s injuries. For proximate cause to apply, it must be possible to prove that a person or entity’s actions or inactions were a substantial factor contributing to the incident that caused the person’s injuries. The doctrine of proximate cause falls within tort law. Tort law covers civil cases involving actions or inactions that cause harm. 

What is an example of proximate cause in law?

Suppose you’re driving on a rainy day. A city bus fails to stop at a red light and strikes your vehicle. Following the accident, vehicle inspectors determined that worn parts prevented the vehicle from stopping. Since the maintenance staff should know that failing to replace these parts could cause an accident, their failure to act is a legal example of proximate cause.
Car Accident
Proximate cause isn’t limited to motor vehicle accidents. Suppose a homeowner is aware they have loose siding on their home. The homeowner doesn’t reattach or replace the siding. A gust of wind pulls the siding loose, and it hits a pedestrian. The pedestrian’s lawyer can argue proximate cause because it was reasonable for the homeowner to know their siding was a safety hazard. Still, they failed to take steps to reduce the potential for harm. 

Determining Proximate Cause Applies to Your Case

Accident victims should consult a catastrophic injury attorney after their accident. When earning their law degree, injury lawyers specialize in personal injury law. They’re familiar with case law they can use to pursue claims on behalf of their clients.

Some personal injury lawyers cover multiple personal injury case types. Others concentrate on specific types of accident cases. Depending on the cause of your accident, you may opt to consult with a lawyer specializing in one of these practice areas:

  • Catastrophic injury
  • Truck accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Dog bites
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Boat accidents

Hiring a specialist ensures you receive expert legal guidance until your case is resolved. For example, a truck accident attorney is the best professional to handle your truck accident case. These attorneys understand the variables that could contribute to truck accidents, such as lack of proper maintenance or driver fatigue. Your attorney can subpoena maintenance records, dashcam footage, and other evidence to establish proximate cause.

How much does hiring an injury attorney cost?

You can consult an experienced injury attorney without paying a single cent. Get a free consultation when you contact a reputable, licensed injury lawyer. Injury lawyers operate on a contingency fee. This means that you won’t pay anything until they win your case. Once your case is resolved, your attorney receives a portion of your settlement to cover their fees. 

See related article: Is Personal Injury Law a force for good? 

How is proximate cause shown in negligence tort cases?

Your attorney must prove that the defendant’s actions or inactions caused your accident and injuries. This involves establishing relevant factors and then illustrating how those factors led to a foreseeable accident. 

Suppose an individual had surgery. They received anesthesia, and after the procedure, they were released to return home. Although their doctor told them not to drive, they tried to drive home. They didn’t stop for a red light and struck a vehicle, causing an accident.

Injury attorneys establish the defendant’s condition. They can call medical experts to testify about the dangers of driving after sedation. If the attorney can establish that the driver could foresee they might cause an accident if they drove hours after being sedated, the attorney can prove proximate cause.

Why is proximate cause hard to apply in court?

Judge's Gavel
Although it’s possible to confirm multiple facts at the time of the accident, it doesn’t mean each factor contributed to the accident. Sometimes, unexpected events cause accidents, and no party is at fault. For example, an unexpected storm could cause poor driving conditions. Consequently, it isn’t possible to establish legal responsibility based on a foreseeable outcome from actions or inactions. In that case, it isn’t likely to prove proximate cause.

Proximate cause establishes fault for a person’s injuries. Proving proximate cause can enable you to receive financial compensation after an accident. Your injury attorney can investigate factors contributing to your injuries to determine if they can make a case for proximate cause.


Accidents or Unintentional Injuries. (2022). 

Causation in Personal Injury Cases. (2022). 

Proximate Cause. (2022).