In nearly every personal injury case, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant acted negligently. In turn, that negligent act must be a cause of their injuries. What happens when a third party intervenes or an act of God occurs at the same time?
Some personal injury cases hinge on causation, or what is to blame for the plaintiff’s injuries. When someone (or something) else is at fault, other than the defendant, it could be considered an intervening or superseding cause. This can reduce or eliminate the defendant’s liability.
The Law Offices of Tim Misny can explain potential issues with causation when you call us for a consultation. Read on for a brief overview of these concepts.
A party or event is considered an intervening cause when:
- The defendant acted negligently, and
- The third party or the event worsened the plaintiff’s injuries.
For instance, if a driver ran a stop sign and hit a pedestrian, they would be the primary cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. However, if another vehicle hit them afterward and worsened the injuries, that would be an intervening cause. Even though the pedestrian was already injured, the intervening cause made the injuries worse. The defendant could argue that the third party bears some liability for their contribution.
Both intervening and superseding causes can be due to third parties, or acts of nature. The key is whether the resulting harm was a foreseeable result of the negligent act.
Superseding causes completely transfer liability from the defendant to a third party. Even if the defendant acted negligently, a superseding cause could be considered the “true” cause of the injuries. For example, a defendant might run a red light and causes a pedestrian to scramble back while crossing the street. As they rush to get away, a tree branch falls, hits and injures the pedestrian.
In this case, the pedestrian might sue the driver, claiming it was their negligent act that caused the accident. The first driver could then point to the tree branch as a superseding cause—the real cause of harm, which relieves them of liability.
This may seem like a fine distinction. Plaintiffs may worry whether they’re filing a claim against the right party or parties. Fortunately, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Tim Misny will evaluate your legal options and help you get the most favorable results possible.
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When you’re injured in an accident, you deserve great legal representation. We can help you recover compensation for your injuries, lost wages, pain and suffering and more. I’ll Make Them Pay!® Get in touch with me at (800) 556-4769 so that I can evaluate your case.