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Understanding Proximate Cause

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Imagine that your neighbor’s house catches on fire because she left the oven on, and the fire spreads to your house and injures your child. Or that you visit a restaurant and slip on a giant puddle of water. Or that your neighbor invites you over for dinner but when you walk up the porch stairs you trip on a piece of wood that isn’t properly attached to the bottom step. Can you sue the neighbor or restaurant owner for negligence?

If you were injured, then yes. But you must prove that the neighbor or restaurant owner acted negligently and that this negligence was the proximate cause of your injuries. 

What Is Negligence? 

Put simply, negligence is the failure to use proper care. Leaving the oven on after you’ve finished cooking, not cleaning up a spill on the floor, and not fixing a broken step on your porch are all examples of negligent actions that could expose you to legal liability — but only if your negligence injures another person.

One of the most important aspects of winning your personal injury lawsuit is proving that the defendant’s negligence actually caused your injuries, and that your injuries weren’t caused by something else.

What Is Proximate Cause?

Proximate cause is a legal term that basically means “direct cause.” In other words, it means that your injury was the foreseeable result of the defendant’s negligence. For example, it’s foreseeable that an oven might catch on fire if someone forgets to turn it off. If a waiter spills a pitcher of water on a restaurant floor and doesn’t clean it up, it’s foreseeable that a customer would slip on the puddle and fall. And if a homeowner doesn’t fix a broken step on his porch, it’s foreseeable that a neighbor or guest might trip on it.

To prove that negligence was the proximate cause of an injury, you must establish that the injury was the natural consequence of the negligent act and that the injury wouldn’t have happened but for that act. There can be no independent interfering cause (like an electrical issue that starts a fire in your house before your neighbor leaves her oven on) that breaks the chain of consequences.

An experienced attorney can examine the facts of your case and help determine the proximate cause of your injury.

Filing a Negligence Claim in Florida

Under Florida law, you only have four years from the date of the injury to file your personal injury lawsuit. This deadline is called the statute of limitations. Plus, the sooner you file the less likely it is that evidence gets lost or damaged, or that witness memories fade. 

Contact Us Today

Contact a Tampa personal injury attorney at The Pendas Law Firm today for a free consultation if you were injured by someone’s negligence. We will help prove that the negligent act caused your injury and help recover the compensation that you deserve.

The Pendas Law Firm also represents clients in the Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, Fort Myers, West Palm Beach, Jacksonville, Daytona Beach and Bradenton areas.

Resource:

floridasupremecourt.org/civ_jury_instructions/formerInstructions.shtml

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