The Difference Between Negligence and Causation

by Neil B. Nicholson on Dec. 22, 2021

Accident & Injury 

Summary: A person may be negligent, but still not legally at fault for causing another person's harm. Both negligence and causation are required to hold a person legally at fault for negligent conduct.

What is negligence?

Negligence is the failure to use reasonable case. Reasonable care is the degree of care which an ordinary, prudent person would use under the same or similar circumstances.

The failure to use reasonable care may take the form of action or inaction. That is, negligence may consist of either: doing something that an ordinary, prudent person would not do under the same or similar circumstances; or, failing to do something that an ordinary, prudent person would do under the same or similar circumstances. A person’s emotional state at the time decisions are made does not alleviate the requirement of the person to do something that an ordinary, prudent person would do under the same or similar circumstances.

What is legal cause or causation?

Failure to exercise reasonable care amounts to legal fault if that failure was a legal cause of the accident and injury. Negligence is the legal cause of harm when the negligent conduct is a substantial factor in bringing about the harm, and if the harm would not have occurred without that conduct. But if the negligent conduct is not a substantial factor in bringing about the harm, it cannot be the basis for a finding of legal harm.

In determining whether the defendant’s conduct was a legal cause of your injury, a jury does need not find that the defendant’s conduct was the sole cause of the injury. A jury needs only to find that it was a substantial factor in bringing about the injury, even though other factors may also have contributed to cause of your injury.

To recover, it is not necessary that you prove each and every allegation of negligence on the part of the defendant. It is sufficient if the plaintiff proves that any one of the allegations of negligence was a substantial factor in bringing about the injury.

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