Causation is an essential element in any Washington, D.C., negligence claim. This means that a successful plaintiff in a Washington, D.C. personal injury claim has to show that the defendant’s negligent actions were the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff has the burden of proving a causal relationship between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s injuries. Proving causation means proving that there was “a direct and substantial causal relationship” between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s injuries and that the harm was foreseeable. Proximate cause also involves considering the foreseeability of the harm that occurred and the scope of the risk created by the defendant’s actions. It aims to limit liability in circumstances where the link between the conduct and resulting harm is so attenuated that the consequence is pure luck. It is meant to limit liability in those cases where holding the defendant labile would be unfair or bad policy.
A plaintiff can prove causation by providing either direct or circumstantial evidence. Generally, proximate cause is a question of fact that must be resolved by the jury. The standard for proving causation, like other elements in a negligence claim, is whether it is more likely than not to have been the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. A plaintiff cannot simply show that it is a mere possibility that the defendant’s actions caused the plaintiff’s injuries. This means that in a Washington, D.C. injury claim, a plaintiff must point to the specific acts that the plaintiff claims were negligent and demonstrate how those specific acts, more likely than not, were the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. In accident cases involving multiple vehicles, proving causation can be more difficult.
Bicyclist killed in multi-vehicle crash in Northwest D.C.