Updated May 17, 2022

Causation: A Legal Definition

If you’ve been searching the Internet after an injury, you’ve probably seen the term causation used in reference to personal injury law. You can get an idea of the meaning from the root cause, and from context, but legal terms have very specific definitions.

Causation: What Does It Mean?

Causation, in legal terms, refers to the relationship of cause and effect between one event or action and the result. It is the act or process that produces an effect.

In a personal injury case, one must establish causation—meaning that it’s not enough to show that the defendant was negligent. The negligence must be what caused the complainant’s injuries.

Example of Causation

For example, a homeowner leaves the gate surrounding the backyard pool unlocked. A child opens the gate, falls into the pool, and drowns. The negligent action caused the accident; therefore, causation could be established. However, if a child climbed over the fence at the other end of the pool, fell into the pool and drowned, the homeowner would not be liable. Although there was negligence in both examples, the negligence in this case did not cause the child’s accident. The accident would have happened even if the gate were locked.

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