Hello, I’m attorney Kyle Bachus. The legal world is full of overly complicated jargon and terminology that can be intimidating if you don’t know what it means. In my law 101 video series, I’m breaking down some commonly used legal terms so you can be informed and confident should you ever need to take legal action.

In this episode of law 101, we’re going to break down a term in the legal world called proximate cause. In other videos, we talked about causation or cause, in fact, and demonstrated an injury.

Proximate cause is an entirely different animal. In fact, the name really doesn’t even fit what this word means in the legal world. Proximate cause has to do with something called foreseeability of injury. Well, that seems complicated. Let me explain. Let’s say that you’re riding in a car, and somebody rear-ends you, and they cause a back injury to you. That is a foreseeable event, and therefore you can bring a claim, a civil claim for foreseeable injury, all right? Let me take another example that I hope will make this make a lot more sense to you.

Let’s say, on the other hand; you’re driving to a job interview, alright? And the person who is behind you, they don’t know that you’re on your way to a job interview. They hit the back of your car. In addition to your back injury, they cause you to miss the job interview. And that was a job interview that was going to pay you $100,000 a year, and you’re sure you were going to get that job. The question is, can you recover for the loss of the job from the person who rear-ended you?

And the legal question, is it foreseeable that if somebody rear-ends you in a car, that you’re on your way to a job interview and you’re not going to get the job, and it could cost you $100,000? Is it a foreseeable consequence of their driving too closely to the back of your car, to be responsible financially for this attenuated outcome, right? Under the law, probably not. It’s probably not foreseeable, and therefore the rear-ending was not the proximate cause; just substitute the word foreseeable for proximate cause.

It’s probably not foreseeable that you’re going to lose a job if you get rear-ended. And therefore, the legal system would likely not allow the person who was rear-ended to recover for this loss of earnings from this job interview. You could recover for the back because it’s foreseeable that if you get rear-ended, it’s going to hurt your back; you’re right there. But the attenuated circumstance is probably not foreseeable, and will not be judged to be a proximate cause. The more attenuated it is from the actual event, the less likely that you’re actually going to be able to recover for it in the court system.

That’s proximate cause. If you have an event where somebody has caused injury to you, and you have some sort of attenuated consequence, and you have questions about whether that’s a recoverable, foreseeable result of the negligence of the person who caused the injury, reach out to Bachus & Schanker, and we’re happy to talk to you about it personally. And to learn more about other law topics that can help you feel informed and confident about the law, make sure to check out more videos in this series.