Proximate Cause Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Proximate Cause, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Proximate Cause?

It refers to the act which when performed leads to the injury almost consequently but in form of natural, undependable or uniterrupted form resulting from that act.It means that if that act was not performed, the injury would not have occurred.

History and Meaning of Proximate Cause

Proximate cause is a legal term that deals with the question of whether a defendant's actions were the cause of the plaintiff's injury. In other words, it addresses the question of whether a defendant should be held liable for damages resulting from his actions.

The concept of proximate cause has a long history in common law, dating back to English courts of the 19th century. The word “proximate” indicates nearness or directness, therefore, proximate cause is concerned with the nearest or most direct cause of an injury or harm.

Proximate cause is often used in personal injury lawsuits to determine if a defendant's negligence caused the plaintiff's injuries. For example, if a driver runs a red light and hits a pedestrian, the proximate cause of the pedestrian's injuries would be the driver's actions.

Examples of Proximate Cause

  1. A worker at a construction site drops a hammer from above, which hits another worker standing below causing injury. In this case, the dropping of the hammer is the proximate cause of the worker's injury.
  2. A restaurant leaves out food that has gone bad, and a customer who eats it becomes seriously ill. The proximate cause of the customer's illness would be the restaurant's negligence in serving spoiled food.
  3. A homeowner fails to properly secure his dog in the yard, and the dog bites a visitor causing serious injury. In this case, the proximate cause of the injury would be the homeowner's failure to secure the dog.

Legal Terms Similar to Proximate Cause

  1. Cause-in-fact: This is a legal term to prove a specific act caused the damages. Cause in fact probably led to the injuries, and the injuries would not have occurred if the defendant had not acted in a certain way.
  2. Direct cause: It refers to the closest-causation factor, meaning that if the event had any intervening or mitigating factors that could have sullied the flow of causation or if the damage is not an apparent result of the act, then it cannot be deemed a direct cause.
  3. Contributing cause: Unlike proximate cause, it does not cause harm on its own, but it does contribute to the resulting harm. In other words, there are several factors or actions involved in causing the harm, and one of those factors is considered a contributing cause.