Legal Causation vs Factual Causation

Legal causation and factual causation are two distinct elements of the principle of causation, which is a fundamental concept in law that establishes a causal connection between the defendant's actions or omissions and the harm or damage caused to the victim.

Factual causation is concerned with establishing whether the defendant's actions or omissions were a factual cause of the harm or damage suffered by the victim. It is determined by applying the but-for test, which asks whether the harm or damage would have occurred but for the defendant's actions. If the answer is no, then the defendant's actions can be said to be a factual cause of the harm or damage, and he can be held liable.

Legal causation is concerned with establishing whether the defendant's actions or omissions were a legal cause of the harm or damage suffered by the victim. It requires that the harm or damage must result from a culpable act or omission on the part of the defendant, and that the defendant's actions were not too remote and were more than a minimal cause of the harm or damage suffered by the victim.

In other words, factual causation is concerned with establishing a causal link between the defendant's actions and the harm or damage suffered by the victim, while legal causation is concerned with establishing whether the defendant's actions were sufficiently culpable and foreseeable to make him legally responsible for the harm or damage suffered by the victim.

In summary, both factual and legal causation are crucial in establishing liability in tort and criminal law. Factual causation establishes the direct, empirical link between the defendant’s conduct and the harm, using the but-for test. Legal causation, or proximate cause, ensures that it is fair and just to hold the defendant responsible, considering foreseeability and intervening factors.
Back to blog

UOL Case Bank

Upon joining, you become a valuable UOL student and gain instant access to over 2,100 case summaries. UOL Case Bank is constantly expanding. Speed up your revision with us now.

Subscribe Now

Where are our students from?

Yale University
Council of Europe
Baker Mckenzie 
University of Chicago
Columbia University
New York University
University of Michigan 
INSEAD
University College London (UCL)
London School of Economics (LSE)
King’s College London (KCL)
University of London
University of Manchester
University of Zurich
University of York
Brandeis University
University of Exeter
University of Sheffield
Boston University
University of Washington
University of Leeds
University of Law
Royal Holloway, University of London 
Birkbeck, University of London
SOAS, University of London
University of Kent
University of Hull
Queen’s University Belfast
Toronto Metropolitan University
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
University of Buckingham

  • Criminal Practice

    Diagrams and Charts

    Our carefully designed diagrams and charts will guide you through complex legal issues.

  • Criminal Law

    Clear and Succinct Definitions

    Key concepts are concisely defined to help you understand legal topics quickly.

  • Property Law

    Statutory Provisions

    Statutory provisions are provided side by side with legal concepts to help you swiftly locate the relevant legislation.

  • Public Law

    Case Summaries

    We have summarised important cases for you so that you don't need to read long and boring cases.

  • Evidence

    Rules and Exceptions

    Rules and exceptions are clearly listed so that you know when a rule applies and when it doesn't.

  • Company Law

    Terminology

    Legal terms and key concepts are explained at the beginning of each chapter to help you learn efficiently.

  • Case Law

    Case law is provided side by side with legal concepts so that you know how legal principles and precedents were established.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Law Essay Guide

    You will learn essential law exam skills and essay writing techniques that are not taught in class.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Problem Question Guide

    We will show you how to answer problem questions step by step to achieve first-class results.

  • Conflict of Laws

    Structured Explanations

    Complex legal concepts are broken down into concise and digestible bullet point explanations.

  • Legal System and Method

    Legal Research

    You will learn legal research techniques with our study guide and become a proficient legal researcher.

  • Jurisprudence and Legal Theory

    Exam-focused

    All essential concepts, principles, and case law are included so that you can answer exam questions quickly.