Once it has been proven that a person involved in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle has acted in a way that created risk of harm to others, (in legal terms, breached a duty) the analysis turns to conditions surrounding the manifestation of that risk.
The risk-creating or risk-ignoring actions must be shown to share a connection with the harm suffered by the plaintiff. If no link is demonstrated, the case fails. Two such levels must be proven.
Also known by other names such as the if-then cause, legal cause refers to the condition that if it were not for the actions in question, then the harm would not have resulted.
Consider a situation in which a commercial driver fails to report and fix an observed leak in the steering fluid of his truck, which is a task mandated by law. While driving, the steering fluid becomes depleted to the point at which the front wheels can no longer be turned by the steering wheel. This occurs at a critical moment while the driver is attempting to follow the curve in a road, and the driver, unable to turn the wheels, enters the lane of oncoming traffic, striking a passenger car head on.
Here, it is clear to find that if the driver had reported the leak and had it fixed prior to driving, then he would not have been unable to steer as a result of low steering fluid and therefore would not have entered the lane of oncoming traffic, striking the car.
However, causation is not always that simple.
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At times, causation of harm might qualify as legal cause in the definition above, yet be joined by other, unforeseeable causes, or become so far removed in time and circumstance that it loses the component of culpability as a true causation of harm.
Consider the example above, but this time, no car is struck by the truck. In this scenario, the truck strikes the wall of a bridge, creating a horrible spectacle of flame and ruin. A pedestrian onlooker, captivated by morbid curiosity, leans dangerously over the guardrail of the bridge to get a better look and in doing so, falls to the street below landing on a car, causing damage to the car.
Here again, it is clear that if the driver had reported and ordered repairs to the steering mechanism, he then would not have been unable to steer. Therefore, he would not have driven into the wall creating a disaster scene. The pedestrian, therefore, would not have peered over the wall to see the accident, since it would then not exist, and the car would then not have been damaged by the falling pedestrian.
Legal cause exists here, but the actions of the pedestrian constitute an unforeseeable and supervening force that take on the practical responsibility for the damage to the car. In the second example, no proximal cause can be shown.
To prove proximal cause, it must be shown that the actions and harm are directly related, as in the first example, and no other, unforeseeable circumstances are to blame. The results of lawsuits often turn on causation analyses, which can become complicated.
Finally, the plaintiff must prove that they suffered some actual harm, usually in the form of property damage or physical injury to her body. Injury to one’s body can be difficult to diagnose and treat, and often requires years of recovery.
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Causation of harm is subject matter upon which reasonable minds can differ. Trucking companies have hard working lawyers on their side to blur the union between actions and harm. A skilled and experienced accident attorney has the ability to clarify and demonstrate the nexus between his client’s harm and the actions of the defendant. If you or a loved one has suffered injury or property damage in a truck-related accident, call the experienced Marietta, GA accident attorney at the Law Offices of Roger Ghai, P.C for a confidential consultation.
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