How Intervening And Superseding Causes Can Affect A Personal Injury Case

In order for a plaintiff to win a personal injury case, the evidence must show that the defendant’s actions were a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury. Suppose though, that some other cause has disrupted that causal chain. What happens then?

2 types of disruptions to the causal chain

An intervening action: It follows the defendant’s action and worsens the injury. The action could be made by a 3rd party or by nature. A superseding action: That event exaggerates the defendant’s negligence.

The major difference between the 2 actions/causes

An intervening cause was, or should have been foreseen. Injury Lawyer in Mississauga knows that it does not relieve the defendant of liability. A superseding cause does relieve the defendant of liability. It is an intervening act that can be used to transfer blame from the defendant to a 3rd party or to nature.

Using an example to illustrate the difference

Suppose that a worker at a company has been assigned the job of cleaning a certain parking lot. The same worker complains about the poor lighting conditions at that same parking lot. In an effort to avoid an accident, the company orders stronger lights for both the fixtures on the lot’s walls and also for the vehicle that gets used to clean the lot’s pavement.

The lights for the vehicle arrive first, so the worker installs them, before tackling the next job. Those cheap lights do not work well. They start to fade, before the job gets completed. As a result, the pavement-cleaning vehicle hits the wall, and the driver gets injured. The driver seeks compensation for his injuries. The company’s lawyer points to the existence of an intervening action, the fading of the lights. The company still bears part of the responsibility for the driver’s injuries, but it shares that with the company that made the lights.

That first driver quits, and a new one is hired. In the meantime, the lights for the fixtures on the lot’s walls arrive. The company has the new lights placed in the appropriate fixtures. The new driver gets to work cleaning the pavement in the parking lot. One evening, while that new driver is working, an earthquake shakes the structure that stands above that underground parking lot. That structure comes down on the company’s newly hired driver. The driver’s family sues the company that had hired their loved one. The case goes to court. The court relieves the defendant of liability. It points to the superseding cause, the earthquake.

That was an intervening act that disrupted the causal chain that had been created by the company’s request. It had asked a worker to clean a pavement in a parking lot, using a vehicle that had poor-functioning headlights.

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