- The Gerring Law Firm
Issues With Causation of Injuries
Missouri law has a very broad view of the causation needed for personal injury cases. An injury need not be solely caused by the accident for the Defendant to be liable. This is evidenced by the jury instructions courts use to guide jurors when deciding cases. Jury instructions are codified in the Missouri Approved Instructions issued by the Missouri Supreme Court. Missouri Approved Instruction 19.01 acknowledges that multiple factors can directly contribute to an injury. Missouri Approved Instruction 19.03 expressly prohibits instructions requiring a plaintiff to prove the Defendant was the sole cause of the injury.
If there is a dispute with multiple potential causes and multiple events, the jury verdict instructions are to be modified to eliminate the language that the Defendant directly caused an injury. In its place is language requiring the Plaintiff to prove that the Defendant directly caused or contributed to the cause instead. This is an important distinction that further obviates the need for a plaintiff to show a foolproof link between the Defendant’s acts and the Plaintiff’s injuries.
As a general rule, the first negligent actor can be liable for the condition they caused, as well as any aggravation of that condition by a second and later actor. “If a Defendant is negligent and his [or her] negligence combines with that of another, or with any other independent, intervening cause, he [or she] is liable, although his [or her] negligence was not the sole negligence or the sole proximate cause, and although his [or her] negligence, without such other independent, intervening cause, would not have produced the injury.”
What happens when someone is in multiple car accidents in a short period of time? The best course of action very well may be to file a lawsuit against both Defendants and leave it up to a jury to decide who should be found how much at fault. “Missouri law recognizes that where persons whose independent negligent acts coalesce to cause a single indivisible injury, each person may be jointly and severally liabile for all.” (Mo. App. E.D. 1985). This concept is called joint and several liability. A Defendant may be found liable for all the damages or only partially at fault based on the fact finder’s determination.