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Using Proximate Cause, Circumstantial Evidence in a Personal Injury Case

Posted on in Personal Injury

Using Proximate Cause, Circumstantial Evidence in a Personal Injury CaseThe strongest argument that you can make in a personal injury case comes from having direct evidence of the actual cause of an injury. Your first-hand account or the testimony of a witness can directly connect the negligence of another party with the incident that led to your injury. Unfortunately, some cases lack direct evidence of what caused an accident, such as a wrongful death incident that no one witnessed. You can use proximate cause and circumstantial evidence to prove the defendant’s liability, but the court will need to be convinced that it is the most plausible explanation.

Proximate Cause

As opposed to the actual cause, proximate cause is a factor that led to an injury or death, even if it was not the direct cause. The proximate cause may be an act of negligence or recklessness that set in motion the events that resulted in an injury. Courts determine that a factor is the proximate cause of an injury if the injury could have been avoided if not for that factor. For instance:

  • When you are in a car accident, the other vehicle may have been the actual cause of your injuries; but
  • If a faulty car part caused the other driver to lose control of the vehicle, the equipment malfunction would be the proximate cause of the accident and the party that made or installed the equipment is liable.

Circumstantial Evidence

When you do not have direct evidence of what caused an accident, you can present circumstantial evidence that you believe infers the cause of the accident. Circumstantial evidence may be observations or witness testimony that reasonably points towards the cause of an injury. A court will accept circumstantial evidence as establishing a fact if that fact is the only probable conclusion that it can draw from that evidence.

Recent Case

A court is likely to reject a proximate cause supported by circumstantial evidence if it can infer more than one proximate cause. In the recent case of Barclay v. Yoakum, the plaintiff attempted to hold an apartment complex owner liable for the death of a family member who fell off a walkway. Evidence suggests that the victim was intoxicated at the time of his fall, though no one witnessed the circumstances that led to the fall. The plaintiff argued that an unsafe handrail was the proximate cause of the victim’s death based on the circumstantial evidence that the handrail was shorter than building code requirements. The court rejected this argument because it was only one possible cause of the fall. Management at the apartment complex had repeatedly warned the victim about not sitting on the railing, which makes it possible that his own recklessness caused him to fall.

Contact a McHenry Personal Injury Attorney

Circumstantial evidence can be strong enough to carry a personal injury case on its own, as long as it reaches a clear conclusion. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, personal injury lawyer at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can gather the evidence you need to win your case. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

Source:

http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/Opinions/AppellateCourt/2019/2ndDistrict/2170962.pdf

Illinois State Bar Association State Bar of Wisconsin Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Illinois Trial Lawyers Association McHenry County Bar Association
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