Proving Causation in a Car Accident Claim

When you make an ICBC claim, you must establish that the defendant’s negligence caused or materially contributed towards your injuries. This is known as proving causation.

Proving a personal injury claim

When you make a personal injury claim, the burden is on you to prove three things.

  1. You were owed a duty of care
  2. The defendant breached this duty of care
  3. The accident caused or contributed towards your injuries

Where car accident claims are concerned, the first point is easy enough – all road users owe each other a duty of care.

The second point is often called establishing liability. In other words, you must show that the other driver was at fault. Perhaps he/she failed to drive with due care and attention, failed to obey the laws of the road, or drove under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Sometimes liability is obvious. The other driver may even admit fault.

The final point is called establishing causation. Essentially, you must show a clear link between the accident and the injuries you sustained.

Proving causation in an ICBC claim

In Canada, the test for causation is known as the ‘but for’ test. The idea is that ‘but for’ the defendant’s negligence, you would not (on the balance of probabilities) have suffered your injuries.

So, imagine you are the perfect picture of health. You are then rear-ended by a driver and develop chronic whiplash. You would not have suffered these injuries, but for the other driver’s negligence.

Contributory negligence

Complications arise in cases where contributory negligence is a factor. Contributory negligence is when the plaintiff’s actions contributed towards their injuries in some way. Using the above example, imagine that you were not wearing a seatbelt when you were rear-ended, exacerbating your whiplash injuries.

In these cases, you need only show that the defendant’s negligence ‘materially contributed’ to the occurrence of the injury. So, while you are partly at fault for not wearing a seatbelt, it remains that you would not have suffered any injuries, but for the defendant’s failure to drive responsibly.

Pre-existing conditions

Issues can also occur in cases where the plaintiff has a pre-existing condition. Staying with the same example, imagine that six months after developing whiplash in a rear-end shunt, you are involved in a second car accident. This time a driver fails to stop at a red light and side-swipes you. You suffer whiplash once again and make a claim.

During the case, it is very likely that the defence will point to your previous accident, saying that this is the reason for your symptoms. This would absolve the defendant of blame, as he did not cause your injuries – you already had them.

Where the defence tries to undermine your case, the burden is on you to prove that the accident did cause your injuries. This can be achieved with medical evidence, showing a clear link between the defendant’s negligence and your injuries. Witness statements can also prove useful.

ICBC lawyer Vancouver

Please do not be disheartened if ICBC disputes your claim – this is a perfectly normal tactic and is not necessarily a bar to claiming compensation. With the right legal representation, it is possible to prove causation and get the compensation you are entitled to.

To make an ICBC claim, please contact us now for a free consultation. Either fill in the free online enquiry form or call us on 604 684 0040.

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