What is an intervening cause?

November 30, 2009

In order to hold someone legally liable for your injuries, you must prove that person’s actions were the cause of your injuries. Proving causation in personal injury lawsuits is typically a straightforward matter.

For example, John Smith was speeding and ran a red light. When he ran the red light, he hit a car being driven by Mary Jones. Mary was injured and her car was destroyed. Mary’s injuries were clearly caused by John’s actions – that is, by his running a red light. Mary can bring a personal injury lawsuit against John and sue him for both her physical and emotional injuries as well as the damage to her vehicle.

Causation, however, is sometimes more complicated. There are cases when a defendant argues that an “intervening cause” was the true cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. An intervening cause is an event that occurs between the defendant’s original negligent act and the injury suffered by the plaintiff. In this case, the intervening event was the real reason the injury was suffered.

Here’s an example of a situation where the defendant might successfully argue that an intervening cause was the real reason the plaintiff was injured:

Mike is mopping the floors at the ABC Grocery Store. When he finishes mopping, he negligently leaves the bucket of water sitting in the middle of the aisle. Ten minutes later, there’s a mild earthquake. The tremors from the earthquake cause the bucket to shake and tip over, spilling water on the floor. Suzy Shopper slips on the water and falls, breaking her ankle.

In defending a lawsuit brought by Suzy Shopper, the owner of ABC Grocery Store will argue that the earthquake, and not his employee’s negligent actions, was the real cause of Suzy’s injuries.

An experienced personal injury attorney can review the facts of your case and determine who can be held liable for your injuries. To receive free legal advice on your potential Texas personal injury lawsuit, contact Fears | Nachawati today. Simply email us or phone us toll free at 1.866.705.7584 to speak with a Texas personal injury lawyer.

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