Proximate Cause Law and Legal Definition

A proximate cause is one that is legally sufficient to result in liability. It is an act or omission that is considered in law to result in a consequence, so that liability can be imposed on the actor. It is the cause that directly produces an event. The event would not have occurred but for the cause. This is also referred to as direct cause, efficient cause, initial cause, first cause, legal cause, producing cause, primary cause or jural cause.

Proximate cause is used in tort law to link negligence to liability for an injury caused by an accident. The accident and injury must be shown to be the natural and probable result or consequence of the acts of negligence alleged by the attorneys to have been committed. The attorney for the plaintiff must prove that any negligence of which the defendant is accused proximately caused the accident and his or her injuries. A defense attorney must at the same time prove that any contributory negligence of the plaintiff proximately caused the accident and any injuries of which the plaintiff complains.

There may be more than one proximate cause of an accident. Multiple acts of negligence by different people may concur to cause the same accident, yet each may be deemed to be a proximate cause of the accident. Sometimes there is an intervening cause which comes after the original negligence of the defendant and the injured plaintiff, which will either reduce the amount of the defendant's liability. If this intervening cause is the substantial reason for the injury, then the defendant will not be liable at all.