Proximate cause is one of the legal elements of a personal injury claim. In other words, to win a personal injury claim, you must prove the presence of proximate cause. 

Sometimes, the presence of proximate cause is so obvious that there is no need to address it specifically. In other cases, the issue of proximate cause is what determines the outcome.

Negligence” means something like “carelessness,” and it is the most common basis of a personal injury claim. To win a personal injury claim based on negligence, you must prove the following legal elements:

  • The defendant owed you a duty of care;
  • The defendant failed to meet the demands of their duty of care;
  • You suffered an injury; 
  • The defendant’s failure to comply with their duty of care was the factual cause of your injury; and
  • Given the defendant’s breach of their duty of care, the injury you suffered was a foreseeable consequence (proximate cause).

You must prove each one of these elements; failure to prove even one of them will be fatal to your claim. 


Causation is an element of virtually every personal injury case, not only negligence claims. As you can see from the foregoing listing of the elements of a negligence claim, you must prove two forms of causation: factual cause and proximate cause. 

You prove factual cause by establishing that except for the defendant’s breach of their duty of care, you would not have suffered your injury.

What Is Proximate Cause?

Proximate causation is the form of causation that prevents you from recovering compensation when the causal link between the defendant’s wrongdoing and the harm you suffered is so weak that it would be unjust to demand compensation from the defendant. It prevents defendants from bearing liability for “freak accidents.”

The landmark case of Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad set the nationwide standard for determining the presence or absence of proximate cause. In that case, two railroad employees pushed a passenger onto a departing train, causing him to drop his briefcase. 

The briefcase, filled with fireworks, exploded, causing injury to the plaintiff standing many feet away. The court ruled that the plaintiff could not recover because her injury was unforeseeable. 

What Is Contributory Fault?

In Nevada, courts will use contributory fault apportion liability in proportion to each party’s percentage of fault, except that any party whose fault exceeds 50% will receive no damages at all. For example, suppose Party A was 80% at fault for a car accident, while Party B was 20% at fault. 

Party A, being more than 50% at fault, will receive zero compensation. Party B, being 20% at fault, will lose 20% of their compensation but receive the remaining 80% from Party A.

Example of the Interplay Between Proximate Cause and Contributory Fault

Many people confuse proximate cause with contributory fault. Here is an example that can help distinguish between the two.


Suppose Driver A runs a red light, speeding through an intersection. At the same time, Driver B, who has the green light, is texting and driving slowly through the same intersection without paying full attention to the road.


Driver A’s car collides with Driver B’s car in the intersection, resulting in significant damage to both vehicles and minor injuries to both drivers.


Comparative Fault: In the investigation that follows, it is determined that Driver A is primarily at fault for the accident for running the red light, a clear violation of traffic laws, constituting 80% of the fault. Driver B, although having the right of way, is found to be 20% at fault for the accident due to not paying full attention to the road because of texting while driving, which could have possibly allowed them to avoid or mitigate the collision.

Proximate Cause: The actions of Driver A (running a red light at speed) are considered the proximate cause of the accident. This is because the collision was a foreseeable consequence of speeding through a red light – an action that directly led to the accident. 

On the other hand, Driver B’s texting while driving, although contributing to their inability to possibly avoid the collision, is not the proximate cause of the accident itself. 

The primary, direct cause of the collision was Driver A’s action of running the red light.

Illustration of Proximate Cause and Comparative Fault: This scenario illustrates that while both parties contributed to the circumstances of the accident (as reflected in the comparative fault analysis), the proximate cause of the accident (the action most directly responsible for the collision) was Driver A’s running of the red light. 

Driver B’s texting contributed to their fault percentage because it reduced their capacity to respond, but it did not initiate the sequence of events leading to the collision.

Conclusion: In this example, both parties were at fault to different degrees, because of their respective contributions to the risk and occurrence of the accident. This distinction between comparative fault and proximate cause is crucial in legal analyses to determine liability and damages.

Negotiated Settlement

Well over 90 percent of personal injury claims end at the settlement table, not at trial. Accordingly, you probably won’t have a judge available to determine whether proximate cause was present. 

So how do you decide what amount to settle on? The parties have to work that one out between themselves, and it might not be easy. The persuasiveness of your lawyer, however, can make a huge difference here.

Do You Have a Causation Issue? You Probably Need a Las Vegas Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have a personal injury claim for which causation is in dispute, you probably need a lawyer. You needn’t worry about money. As long as your claim is strong, your lawyer can wait until you win your claim and take their legal fees as a percentage of your compensation. And if you don’t win compensation, you don’t pay attorney’s fees.

Contact the Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorneys at Battle Born Injury Lawyers Today

If you or a loved one were injured in an accident in Las Vegas and need legal assistance, contact our personal Injury attorneys at Battle Born Injury Lawyers and schedule a free consultation with our legal team.

Battle Born Injury Lawyers
400 S 4th St Suite 290,
Las Vegas, NV 89101
(702) 357-4868

Battle Born Injury Lawyers – Las Vegas Office
10789 W Twain Ave #100
Las Vegas, NV 89135
(702) 570-9000

Battle Born Injury Lawyers – Reno Office
675 W Moana Ln #206
Reno, NV 89509, USA
(775) 535-7768

Battle Born Injury Lawyers – Henderson Office
8540 S Eastern Ave #200
Henderson, NV 89123
(702) 500-0287