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Proximate Cause

Negligence: Proximate Cause

To bring a successful claim for negligence, a plaintiff must prove the following elements: the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to exercise reasonable care; the defendant breached the duty of care; the defendant’s breach was the proximate cause of injury to the plaintiff, and the plaintiff suffered damages for which he/she is entitled to compensation.

When determining if the requirement that the defendant’s breach was the proximate cause of injury to the plaintiff has been met, the finder of fact will examine two types of causation. The first part of the test for causation is known as “cause-in-fact” or “but-for” causation. The second part of this test is known as “proximate cause”.

Proximate (sometimes referred to as ‘legal’) cause generally refers to an element of foreseeability. Not only must a plaintiff show that he or she would not have been injured without—or, but for—the defendant’s actions, but the defendant’s action (or failure to act) must have caused harm that was to some extent foreseeable.


A classic illustration of this concept was seen in the case Palsgraf v Long Island Railroad Co. 248 N.Y. 339, 162 N.E. 99 (N.Y. 1928). In this case, a man was rushing to catch a train while carrying a wrapped package. Railway employees observed the man attempting to board a train car and thought he was stumbling as he attempted to do so. One employee attempted to pull him into the railcar while another on the platform attempted to push him on. The actions of the employees caused the man to drop the package. The package contained fireworks, which exploded upon hitting the rails. The explosion caused scales to fall from the opposite end of the station. The scales hit another passenger, Ms. Palsgraf, who sued the railway company. The court found that Ms. Palsgraf was not entitled to damages because the relationship between the action of the employees and her injuries was not direct enough. A reasonable person in the position of the railway employee could not have been expected to know that the package contained fireworks and that attempting to assist the man onto the railcar would trigger the chain of events which lead to Ms. Palsgraf’s injuries.

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Kirk Morgan


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Billy Walker


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Will Walker


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Chuck Slaughter


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Degrees of Burns

First , second , and third degree burns

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Burn Injuries

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Scald Burn Injury

Caused when very hot liquids come into contact with skin

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Electrical Burns

Electricity can burn the skin and is capable of causing internal damage

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Chemical Burns

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Thermal burns can occur if the car catches fire or explodes

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Caused when a gas leak combines with an ignition source

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If you've been burned on the job, you may need legal guidance

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