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Causation Issues in Auto Accident Cases

Cause, Auto Accident, Injury, California Law

Causation issues in auto accident cases are one of the biggest legal hurdles that can be faced by an injured party seeking compensation through the civil justice system.  As a California motor vehicle collision attorney with two decades of experience representing car accident victims, I can tell you that this is the most contested and litigated issue in these types of claims.  As I have discussed in other blogs, to prove your case in any personal injury negligence claim, it is the injured party’s “burden” to show a duty was owed by the defendant(s) to the plaintiff(s) [person(s) claiming personal injury]; that this duty was breached by some act or failure to act showing carelessness, unreasonable behavior or wrongdoing; that the breach was the actual and legal cause of injury; and that injury was in fact sustained (See Cal. legal definition of “negligence”).  The most common issues on this third element of “causation” include the following:

  • The delay between the collision and the treatment for the injury:   This scenario goes like this.  A person is involved in a crash and they don’t seek out immediate medical treatment.  They try to “tough it out” or see if the pain will “go away”.  This can begin with a denial of a offer for ambulance transportation from the accident scene to the hospital.  It may be compounded by factors such as a lack of health insurance which provides disincentive to incur medical bills.  The problem becomes when a serious injury is finally discovered (sometimes weeks or even months later), the defense (i.e. claims adjusters for the car insurance company of the at-fault driver), will claim: 1. Given the span of time between the accident and the diagnosis of injury, many other things could have happened that may have caused or contributed to the injury; 2. Defense argument: “If your client was really hurt, they would have gone to the doctor sooner!”
  • The date of the onset of symptoms from the date of accident: Sometimes injuries do not fully manifest themselves or show up at all until some time following the accident.  This is not often but, does happen.  In this instance, the same type of arguments by insurance defense personnel get made.
  • Documentation of the injury and symptoms is delayed or has gaps: Any injury claim should be documented by way of medical records and other proof.  Delays or gaps in the timeline on this type of documentation or failure to fully describe injuries to medical professionals who then fail to transcribe the full extent of bodily harm can be “fodder” for raising causation issues.
  • “Mechanism of Injury”: This is a fancy term used by doctors and lawyers which means that the forces involved in the collision must be connected to the types of injuries sustained.

Causation Issues in Multiple Acts of Negligence or Multi-Party Claims

Issues of who is the “legal cause” of an auto accident also become tricky where there may be more than one person who was negligent or engaged in reckless driving.  California law apportions the fault to the various persons involved in these types of scenarios.  For example, if car “A” slams into the back of car “B” but, car “B” was following too close to Car “C”, then both drivers in cars “A” and “B” could be seen as the “cause” of the accident but, a percentage of fault would need to be placed upon each of them.

The Need to Promptly Consult and Retain A Car Accident Attorney

Because car insurance claims adjusters are trained and encouraged to deny claims or reduce their value, these “causation” issues are constantly being raised.  Delay of any amount of time in seeking medical treatment will lead to these arguments being made and the claim getting de-valued or outright rejected.  Just like prompt medical attention is only prudent after a car crash, quickly seeking out the advise and counsel of an attorney is also your best means to counter these types of defenses to your claim.  A quality injury lawyer can consult and retain medical experts that can properly diagnose and document injuries even if treatment is delayed.  A good accident attorney can also assist the victim in seeking out prompt medical examination, diagnosis and treatment to not only assist in the healing process through physical therapy and other forms of medical care and can make sure that such treatment is documented in proper, legal form that can be used as evidence in in later civil action for personal injury.

Steven M. Sweat, APC and their team of attorneys, paralegals, investigators and other professionals has been representing auto accident victims in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and the Inland Empire for two decades.  We have seen these instances of “causation” raised thousand of times and we know exactly how to confront and counter these type of arguments from auto insurance companies.  Call us today for a free consultation: Toll Free – 866-966-5240 or in the L.A. area at 310-592-0445.


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