Cross & Smith LLC


Details Count When Establishing Cause in an Alabama Personal Injury Case

Mar 27, 2015 - Personal Injury by

At first glance, the causes of most accidental injuries seem obvious to many people, but this is certainly not always the case. A tragic story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal about a 13-year old Nevada girl who committed suicide after being bullied illustrates how state laws can complicate a case.

By Nevada state law, the school was responsible for notifying parents about a known bullying incident, but failed to do so. Thus, the uninformed parents were unable to prevent the suicide. They chose to sue the school for the wrongful death of their daughter. In Nevada, this legal case has a good chance of success. But if the same set of circumstances occurred in Tuscaloosa or elsewhere in Alabama, local personal injury lawyers would potentially face certain legal challenges.

Two Concepts Apply When Determining the Cause of an Accident

Before determining whether someone’s negligence caused an accidental injury, injury lawyers need to establish a connection between the person’s actions and the accident. This requires proving two things under the law:

  • Cause in fact: This is essentially a direct connection between negligent actions and the accident, noting that the accident would not have occurred, except for the negligence. A clear example of cause in fact in the bullying case fact might be if the school knew about a problem between two children and locked them in a room together to resolve their differences with no adult supervision to protect against physical altercations.
  • Proximate cause: This concept is more complex because it is more predictive in nature, considering the likelihood that certain actions directly caused an accident. Considering that the bully did not directly murder the girl, proximate cause would represent the most likely question in a lawsuit. Although bullying was the reason for the suicide, the real question is whether or not the school met the responsibilities established by state law to mitigate the situation.

Attorneys Turn to Alabama State Law to Develop a Case

The concepts of cause in fact and proximate cause are the same in any state. However, the laws that affect these concepts differ substantially throughout the country. It is vital to carefully analyze all underlying laws to prove liability.

In the bullying story, Nevada state law requires schools that are aware of bullying incidents to notify parents, and the school failed to meet that responsibility. That failure might be construed as proximate cause because informed parents might be more watchful and take appropriate action to prevent the suicide. That argument might not be effective under Alabama law, which requires victims or their parents to notify the schools, rather than the other way around. This does not mean personal injury lawyers could not help file a successful claim, but they would need to approach it based on the unique laws of the state.

With Experienced Legal Support, It is Possible to Seek Justice

Anyone who sustains injuries or loses a loved one due to the negligent acts of others should never assume that state laws will prevent them from seeking justice for their loss. Even when state law seems to stack the cards against victims, skilled personal injury lawyers know how to analyze all laws to help establish solid evidence of liability.

Additional Resources:

Alabama Pattern Jury Instructions,

Other Blog Topics:

Fraternity Injury Liability, Tuscaloosa Personal Injury Blog

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