In a car accident, there is often more than one variable that leads to the collision. These variables often blend together, particularly when the events unfold quickly. But sometimes making a distinction between them can make all the difference in a successful wrongful death case that seeks to redress the loss of a loved one.
A 2011 fatal car accident case that is in the end stages of its criminal proceedings highlights the importance of fine distinctions in a legal action, including in a civil action. The accident occurred in Baton Rouge. It resulted in the death of five people: two adults and three children.
The main issue of the case is the cause. There is a dispute over whether one of two drivers is the proximate cause. One driver, who was over the legal alcohol limit at the time of the accident, claims he is not responsible. He says that another driver was already convicted of negligent homicide and that she is solely responsible. He claims that she hit his car, causing it to spin out of control and into oncoming traffic. Others disagree, noting the driver's blood alcohol content as well as the fact that it appeared that he was involved in a high-speed chase with the other female driver.
Causation is a major aspect of both criminal and civil cases. In a wrongful death action, there are specifically two elements of negligence that concern causation: cause in fact and proximate causation. A plaintiff must prove both of them in order to be successful.
Cause in fact focuses on whether a defendant's conduct actually caused the decedent's death. In contrast, proximate cause examines the defendant's responsibility for the incident. This second form of causation relates to foreseeability and whether a defendant could reasonable foresee the circumstances that occurred.
Proximate cause can be a difficult element for a plaintiff to demonstrate, especially when there may be a host of variables that led to a particular accident. Although difficult, it is not impossible to demonstrate proximate cause. Plaintiffs should focus in on key details in order to craft a successful case.
Source: theadvocate.com, "Defense lawyer: Leger not at fault in crash that killed five," Joe Gyan Jr., Nov. 13, 2013