“Proximate Cause” & Scientific Causation

Forensic Psychiatrists, Psychologists and all testifying expert physicians are expected to offer their opinions in both civil and criminal matters to the standard of proof of “reasonable medical certainty” (“reasonable medical probability” in California). However, the legal definitions of causation (proximate cause) and the notion of causation from the perspective of behavioral science are not the same, and sometimes actually diverge. This article by Dr. Levy attempts to explain those differences, explicate the potential dilemmas, and suggest some pitfalls for the testifying medical-legal expert to avoid when discussing “causation” in its legal context.