Legal Element of Causation Must be Proven in New Mexico Lawsuits Alleging Negligence

People hurt in a New Mexico car accident have the right to pursue legal remedies against all at-fault parties for causing their harm. Often, car accident legal claims are filed under a negligence theory of law.  Negligence is a failure to act reasonably, under the circumstances.  Careless drivers who speed or drive distractedly may be deemed negligent by a judge or jury if the plaintiff proves all of the necessary legal elements of a negligence allegation.  These elements include duty, breach, causation, and damages.

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In a recent appellate case, the important concept of causation was at issue, when that court assessed whether a defendant’s hand gesture in waving the plaintiff forward in his vehicle proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries.  After reviewing the facts of the case, the court determined that the plaintiff was unable to show the defendant’s conduct caused his injuries. This case is significant because New Mexico negligence law also requires a showing of causation, since the defendant’s conduct must be the but-for cause of the accident. In other words, but for the defendant’s conduct, the accident would not have occurred.

The plaintiff in the appellate case was an on-duty officer driving in his patrol car.  He approached an intersection and was attempting to make a left hand turn across two lanes of traffic, in order to return his car to the barracks.  The plaintiff encountered a line of cars in the close eastbound lane and made eye contact with the defendant, who was operating a vehicle in the close eastbound lane of traffic.  The defendant checked his mirrors and motioned for the plaintiff to drive forward.  As the plaintiff slowly proceeded in front of the defendant’s car and entered the far eastbound lane of traffic, he was struck by another motorist.

In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant was at fault for causing the plaintiff’s injuries because he negligently waved him on to complete the turn, when it was not safe to do so. To assess liability for this car accident, the court analyzed whether the defendant’s conduct proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries.  According to law, causation requires showing that the defendant’s conduct directly led to the harm. When there is another, intervening cause, there is a break in the causation.

In their analysis, the court focused on whether the plaintiff’s testimony, in which he stated that he understood it was his responsibility to take the turn, led to his injuries.  Additionally, in assessing whether the plaintiff was partially at fault for his injuries, the court noted that the plaintiff had attempted to check for himself whether the path was clear, and he had slowly crept forward around the defendant’s vehicle.  Thus, the court stated that the plaintiff failed to make a showing that the defendant’s gesture was the proximate cause of his injuries, and the defendant was therefore entitled to summary judgment on the plaintiff’s negligence claim.

This case demonstrates the importance of proving every element of a legal claim in an injury lawsuit for compensation.  At the Law Office of Matthew Vance, P.C., we help people suffering the devastating consequences of a car accident throughout Albuquerque and the surrounding areas.  Car accident lawyer Matthew Vance will advocate for full compensation from all at-fault parties.  To understand your legal rights and learn more about your case, call our office at (505) 242-6267 or reach us online.  We offer a consultation at no cost.

More Blog Posts:

New Mexico Court Denies Plaintiff’s Motions in Lawsuit Following Car Accident, Finds She Had Not Been Forthcoming Regarding Medical History, But Dismissal Not Appropriate, New Mexico Injury Lawyer Blog, May 21, 2017

Distracted Driving and Text Ban in New Mexico, New Mexico Injury Lawyer Blog, August 30, 2017

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