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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

Essential Legal Terms: What Are Intervening Causes and Superseding Causes?

In the world of law, particularly in personal injury cases, some terms might sound complex but are crucial in determining who is at fault. Concepts such as "intervening and superseding causes" play a significant role in these situations.


When a wounded person files a personal injury claim, it's not always straightforward to figure out who should be held responsible for the plaintiff's damages. Did the defendant's actions directly lead to the harm, or was there another event—an intervening or superseding cause—that came into play?


Understanding these legal terms helps determine the defendant's liability and could even help one side escape liability entirely. This article aims to simplify these intricate concepts, explaining their importance in personal injury lawsuits. Contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys for other questions like what is respondeat superior in a personal injury case?


What are Intervening Causes and Superseding Causes?

What are Intervening Causes and Superseding Causes?


In a personal injury case, figuring out who is at fault is not always a straight line. Sometimes, other events or actions, called intervening and superseding causes, come into the picture and can change the whole outcome.


First, what are the intervening causes? Imagine someone injuring their foot by stepping on a cracked sidewalk. While that happens, another person comes along and intentionally drops a heavy box on that already injured foot, making it worse.


That second action is an intervening cause. The individual who dropped the box becomes a third party who has added to the injured person's woes. Moreover, this doesn't mean the owner of the cracked sidewalk is off the hook entirely, but their legal responsibility might be minor.


Now, let's talk about the superseding cause. This cause is a twist in the story that is totally unexpected. Using the same example, let's say a bird suddenly swoops down and pecks the injured foot, causing a severe infection.


No one could have seen that coming! In legal terms, the bird's peck becomes a superseding cause, relieving the sidewalk owner from being held liable for the worsened injury.


Hence, these causes can help determine liability in a personal injury claim. They play a crucial role in figuring out if the defendant's negligence was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries or if some unexpected event is to blame. Understanding these terms can help injured victims navigate the complex legal issues they might face in a personal injury lawsuit.


The Role of Intervening and Superseding Causes in a Personal Injury Case


Intervening and superseding causes can significantly affect the outcome in a personal injury case. They're like plot twists in a movie that could change who ends up paying for the injured person's troubles.


Proximate Cause and Foreseeability


To win a personal injury claim, it's not enough to show that someone did something wrong. The negligent act must be the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury. That means it has to be closely linked to what happened to the injured victim.


However, foreseeability also matters, and the court could ask questions such as "Could the defendant have reasonably expected their actions to lead to harm?"


If a third person adds a predictable intervening act, for example, speeding in a school zone, the original negligent party might still be held responsible for the victim's injuries.


In contrast, if the intervening act is unexpected, such as a tree falling out of nowhere, it can become a superseding cause. This new event could cut off the defendant's liability, meaning they may no longer be held responsible for the claimant's injuries.


Cause & Blame in Injury Cases


These ideas are powerful tools in determining liability. They can help an experienced injury law firm argue whether the defendant's negligent action was directly linked to the plaintiff's injury or if something else — such as a third person's action or even bad luck — is more to blame. Understanding these terms can give anyone following personal injury cases a clearer view of what's at stake.


Examples of Real-life Scenarios That Can Cause a Plaintiff's Injury


Let's imagine two real-life situations to make these legal terms easier to grasp.


Intervening Cause


In the first scenario, let's say that someone spills water on a supermarket floor and doesn't clean it up. Then, another individual enters the store to buy something but slips on the water and breaks an arm. Later, another shopper, unaware of the spill, clumsily bumps into the injured person, causing more pain.


Here, the second shopper's action is an intervening cause, but it doesn't excuse the first person who spilled the water. Their negligent act remains the proximate cause of the initial injury.


Superseding Cause


Let's consider a second example where a negligent driver hits a pedestrian. While the injured person is waiting for help, a lightning bolt strikes a nearby tree, causing it to fall on them. The lightning and tree become a superseding cause that relieves the driver from being entirely at fault for the victim's injuries.


Furthermore, the facts matter in personal injury cases. An experienced attorney can examine the chain of events and prove negligence or fault to ensure justice is served for injury victims.


Importance of Legal Help in a Personal Injury Claim

Importance of Legal Help in a Personal Injury Claim


When someone is hurt, figuring out who is responsible can be a real headache. This process gets even more complicated when other events or people play a role after the initial harm.


Was it an intervening cause or a superseding cause? These legal terms can boggle the minds of everyday people but are critical in a personal injury case. They can determine who pays for what or if the person who initially caused harm can be excused because of unforeseen events.


Piecing together these puzzle pieces is no walk in the park. Hence, having a law expert is invaluable. Legal help can sort through the events, examine the defendant's actions, and argue why someone should or shouldn't be held responsible. Additionally, they can help victims get justice and prove fault where it's due.


Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys's team of lawyers are the go-to professionals for those who find themselves entangled in such complex situations. According to its motto, "We go to war for you," the whole firm is ready to battle the complexities in court to help the victim. Individuals shouldn't navigate these complicated waters alone and should seek legal advice and help that can make all the difference. They will also explain what a contingency fee is.


Final Thoughts


The complexities of a personal injury case often hinge on understanding legal terms such as the intervening cause and superseding cause. These aren't just fancy words since they can help determine who is legally responsible for someone's injuries.


Pinpointing legal cause in the mess of events after an accident is crucial to getting justice. It's not just about knowing who did what but identifying if any unforeseen event changes the equation. The law is rarely straightforward, especially when multiple factors are at play, such as a defendant's negligent act followed by other complicating events.


Moreover, for anyone grappling with these intricate details, Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can offer the expertise needed to untangle these complex issues. We're here to help victims navigate the labyrinth of legal questions and get compensation for the person who deserves it.

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