There are two types of causation: actual cause (cause-in-fact) and proximate cause. The defendant’s actions are the cause-in-fact of the plaintiff’s injury if the plaintiff would not have been injured “but for” the defendant’s wrongful act, or if the plaintiff’s injury was a foreseeable result of the defendant’s action. Proximate cause deals with the issue of whether, considering all other relevant factors, the defendant’s actions were the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
The defendant will often try to demonstrate that there are other causes for the plaintiff’s injury. One such possible cause is the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition, that is, the plaintiff’s original illness or injury for which he or she sought medical treatment. In addition, the defendant may try to show that the plaintiff was negligent in some way, and that this negligence, and not the health care provider’s, actually caused the plaintiff’s injury. The health care provider may also argue that even if he or she deviated from acceptable medical procedures, such a deviation would not have altered the outcome for the plaintiff. Further, the health care provider might argue that there was a “superseding cause” or “intervening cause” that serves to shift liability to another third party who caused a new, independent and unforeseen harm.
Contact the Richard A. Shallcross & Associates, PLLC for help in your medical malpractice case.