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Tracing The Cause Of A Car Crash

Authorities believe that a combination of several factors caused a fatal car crash near a rain-swollen Loosahatchie River.


When first responders arrived at the scene, a large SUV that apparently slid off Highway 51 near Watkins was resting upside-down beneath 15 feet of water, in a spot that was almost 50 feet away from an embankment. Witnesses state that the vehicle crossed the median in heavy fog before flipping over and tumbling off the embankment. Investigators believe that the slick surface and limited visibility played a part in the wreck, and they are also examining the SUV to look for additional clues.


All the vehicle occupants were rushed to local hospitals with serious injuries; the driver was later pronounced dead.


Cause in a Negligence Case


Many times, there is more than one plausible cause for the plaintiff’s damages. For example, in the above story, the crash could have been caused by environmental factors, like the low visibility, or a product defect, like unsafe tires.


A good example of this concept is found in New York Central Railway v. Grimstad. Two vessels apparently collided near Brooklyn; immediately thereafter, a steamer captain fell overboard. His wife rushed below deck to get a rope, but by the time she got back, Capt. Grimstad had drowned.


In this combination of misfortunes, there could have been several things that “caused” the drowning in the legal sense of the word. One of the ship pilots could have veered off course and caused the ships to collide, Capt. Grimstad’s wife might have taken too much time to find the rope, or the ship manufacturer may have failed to install guardrails. But the jury concluded that the ship’s owner was responsible, because there were no floatation devices on deck.


In other words, based on the evidence, the owner was responsible. That is not to say that the other theories are illogical or invalid; rather, there happened to be more evidence at trial about the lack of floatation devices than the other possible causes.


Burden of Proof


The jury drew this conclusion because of the low standard of proof in civil cases. A plaintiff need only establish the elements of negligence (duty, breach, cause, proximate cause, and damages) by a preponderance of the evidence, which means more likely than not.


Picture two equally-sized piles of autumn leaves sitting side by side. If one leaf is added to the pile on the left, it is larger than the pile on the right. That is the picture of preponderance of the evidence. There may be a thousand reasons to find a defendant not negligent, but if there are a thousand and one that point in the opposite direction, the jury must make an appropriate finding.


For prompt assistance in this area, contact an aggressive personal injury attorney in Memphis today.

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