A quick guide to understanding superseding causes in a personal Injury

When we discuss personal injury cases, there is certainly a high level of ambiguity among the people. In cases where a personal injury happens, a sufferer will need to prove that the injury had happened due to the negligence of someone else to recover the monetary compensation.

However, before you opt to recover the financial compensation, you need to go through defenses concerning intervening and superseding causes.

A majority of accidents and incidents are caused due to the negligence of the other person, entity, or a third party. These accidents may include car accidents, slips, trips, and falls, construction site accidents, and much more.

No matter what type of incident has happened, it always underlies some causations and negligence which result in superseding causes.

What are superseding causes?

A superseding cause in a personal injury is the action that takes place the liability of the defendant after an accident. Superseding causes are used as a defense against a negligence claim, that puts the defendant’s action on something or someone else making them the main cause of the accident instead of the defendant’s action. 

Accidents, where the typical superseding cause exists, minimize the liability of the defendant on the plaintiff’s damages and injuries and make the defendant less or not liable for the cause altogether.

For instance, a producer of orange juice packs the juice with the potential warning for diabetics. A retailer of the product repacks it, hiding the warning or without providing the warning at the pack.

In this case, if the product causes diabetic consumers health risks, then the retailer’s actions would be called superseding causes and would be held liable for the damage preventing the producer of the juice from liability.

What are Intervening causes?

In intervening cause, proving a defendant liable for your losses involves more intricacies. This is because these causes can interfere while making the defendant accountable for the incident in question. 

It is an element that appears after the negligent action from the defendant has occurred and the intervening cause contributes to the victim’s injury. Moreover, an intervening cause can also worsen the injury or enhance the intensity of the damage that has already happened.

For instance, if a person at the time of a car accident attempts to save a victim from potential damage that may increase if he leaves the victim at the scene. In order to help, while lifting him he accidentally aggravates his suffering and the victim causes more injuries as a result.

In this example, the actions of the witness would be called intervening causes that worsen the injuries and reduce the liability of the actual defendant in a personal injury claim.

Difference between Superseding and intervening causes

The main cause that keeps the superseding and intervening causes apart is foreseeability. When an intervening act supersedes the cause of injury which holds the original defendant liable it will be called superseding intervening cause or act.

For example, a homeowner intentionally digs a hole in the sidewalks, and without leaving any warning to the pedestrians, he leaves it open. As the sidewalk remains crowded, a fellow pedestrian negligently pushed the plaintiff into the hole. Here, the homeowner was negligent to leave the hole open, the fellow pedestrian was also negligent and caused an intervening act.

It would be a superseding intervening act as it was foreseeable for the homeowner that if you leave a hole open someone would fall into it. Thus, keeping the homeowner liable for the cause.

Superseding intervening cause in an injury case

Generally, in an injury claim, the plaintiff (injured person) can go for a ‘but for’ test for proving the potential liability of his/her injuries and accidents. The test would determine if the defendant’s actions were the reasons behind the injuries and damages of the victim.

If any intervening causes are involved in the injuries, they will be taken into account while defining the liability. 

If you met with an accident and your injury involved intervening causes, probably the defendant will not be held liable completely for your injuries. Although, the defendant may be able to share the liabilities of your injuries and damages with the intervening party. Therefore, this will reduce the liability of injuries and losses on the actual defendant.

On the flip side, if your injuries involved a superseding cause, then the defendant could not be held liable for your loss. A superseding cause will force you to file the compensation claim against the third party or entity responsible for your injury resulting in superseding cause.

If the injuries are caused by a superseding cause performed by nature such as storm or flood, you may not be able to file a case against your injuries.

Whether the superseding or intervening cause saves the defendant from the liability of the potential injuries of the plaintiff, depends on the foreseeability of the cause.

If the cause is reasonably foreseeable, that the act can cause an injury, then the defendant would not be protected from liability of superseding intervening cause. If the cause was not foreseeable, however, then the cause may not hold the defendant liable.

It is best to consult a personal injury lawyer who will best protect your rights and will help you receive the monetary compensation to cover your loss.

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