The word “causation” probably doesn’t mean a whole lot to the general public. However, to attorneys an immediate bell goes off when they hear the word “causation”. Why? Because in order to recover in a personal injury case, we must show that your injuries were caused by the carelessness of the person you are suing. But how far does that stretch?

See if you can figure out the Court’s ruling in this situation. Assume that a person is seriously injured in a auto accident case. Assume the person is rear-ended by another driver. Further assume that the injured party received pain medication for his injuries. If the injured car accident victim suffers a subsequent fatal accidental overdose from the pain medication he was taking, is the driver who rear-ended him liable for his death? After all, had the deceased person not been rear-ended, he would not have started to take the pain medication and suffered the fatal overdose. How far does the proximate causation issue extend?

This is the fact situation that a Common Pleas judge had to recently decide in Pennsylvania. Was the rear-ender auto accident the proximate cause of the deceased death?

The judge in that case ruled that liability cannot be placed on a defendant who rear-ends another person in a motor vehicle accident causing serious injuries or damages, due to the victim’s subsequent accidental fatal overdose on pain medication.

This points out things that keep attorneys up at 3:30 in the morning. If the injured party cannot legally show that the actions of the careless person were the proximate cause of his injuries, then he cannot recover money for those injuries no matter how severe they are.

In the above case, the estate of the deceased person would likely recover for any pain and suffering he incurred due to the rear-end accident. However, in this fact situation, the Court decided that it was too far of a stretch to hold the tortfeasor responsible for the person’s death.

What do you think about this?