Cohen & Sinowski
Cohen & Sinowski

Decoding Intervening Acts: A Comprehensive Guide to Their Impact on Personal Injury Cases

  • Published: April 19, 2023

The world of personal injury law is vast and complex, with countless incidents occurring daily that require the expertise of skilled legal professionals. These cases range from simple slip and fall accidents to more severe incidents, such as car accidents or medical malpractice, all with the common goal of seeking justice and compensation for the injured parties. In this ever-evolving field, it is crucial for both legal professionals and the general public to stay informed about the intricacies of personal injury law in order to navigate these complex situations effectively.

A. Overview of Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury cases arise when an individual suffers harm or injury due to the negligence or wrongful conduct of another party. This can encompass a wide variety of situations, such as motor vehicle accidents, workplace injuries, defective products, and even dog bites. In each instance, the injured party seeks to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions and obtain financial compensation for the damages incurred. These damages can include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress, among others.

B. Importance of Understanding Intervening Acts

A crucial aspect of personal injury law is the concept of intervening acts. An intervening act is an event or action that occurs after the initial negligent act but before the injury, which contributes to or causes the harm suffered. In some cases, these intervening acts can break the chain of causation, absolving the defendant of liability. Understanding the role of intervening acts is vital for both plaintiffs and defendants, as it can significantly impact the outcome of a personal injury case.

C. Objective of the Blog Post

The purpose of this blog post is to provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of personal injury law, with a particular focus on the importance of intervening acts. By exploring the various types of personal injury cases and delving into the concept of intervening acts, we aim to equip our audience with the knowledge necessary to navigate these complex legal situations. Whether you are a legal professional seeking to expand your expertise or an individual involved in a personal injury case, this blog post will offer valuable insights and guidance to help you better comprehend the intricacies of personal injury law.

Definition of Intervening Acts

A. Explanation of Intervening Acts

Intervening acts can be defined as events or actions that occur after the defendant’s initial negligence but before the plaintiff’s injury, playing a significant role in causing the harm. These acts may involve the actions of a third party, natural occurrences, or even the plaintiff’s own conduct. The key factor in determining whether an act is intervening is its effect on the chain of causation between the defendant’s negligence and the resulting injury.

B. How Intervening Acts Relate to Personal Injury Cases

In personal injury cases, establishing causation is essential for the plaintiff to prove the defendant’s liability. To successfully argue this, they must demonstrate that the defendant’s negligent actions were the direct cause of their injury. However, if there is an intervening act that significantly contributes to the injury or breaks the chain of causation, the defendant may be absolved of liability.

For example, consider a case where a driver negligently causes a car accident by running a red light, injuring another driver. If the injured driver then disregards their doctor’s advice and engages in heavy lifting, causing their injuries to worsen, the defendant may argue that the plaintiff’s actions were an intervening act that broke the chain of causation.

Understanding the concept of intervening acts is crucial for both plaintiffs and defendants in personal injury cases, as it allows them to better assess the strength of their case and develop appropriate legal strategies. It is essential to work with experienced personal injury attorneys, such as the team at Cohen & Sinowski, who have a deep understanding of Georgia law and can skillfully navigate the complexities of intervening acts in personal injury cases.

Types of Intervening Acts

In the world of law, intervening acts play a crucial role in determining liability and causation. When an event occurs between the initial act and the final result, it can either impact the chain of causation or become a new cause altogether. Understanding the different types of intervening acts is essential to grasp their significance in legal scenarios. In this section, we will discuss three primary types of intervening acts: superseding causes, concurrent causes, and the distinction between foreseeable and unforeseeable intervening acts.

A. Superseding Causes

A superseding cause, also known as a novus actus interveniens, is an intervening act that breaks the chain of causation between the defendant’s initial action and the plaintiff’s injury. This type of intervening act is significant because it essentially absolves the defendant of liability, as the superseding event is deemed responsible for the harm.

Superseding causes typically possess three main characteristics:

  1. Unforeseeable: The event must be unpredictable to a reasonable person, and not a natural or expected consequence of the defendant’s actions.
  2. Independent: The superseding event should not be triggered or influenced by the defendant’s conduct.
  3. Sufficient: The intervening act must be strong enough to be considered the primary cause of the plaintiff’s injury, overriding the defendant’s initial action.

B. Concurrent Causes

Concurrent causes are multiple independent acts that contribute to the plaintiff’s injury, and each of them is considered a substantial factor in causing the harm. In such situations, the defendants may be held jointly and severally liable for the damages.

The key aspect of concurrent causes is that each contributing factor is deemed independently sufficient to cause the injury. For example, suppose two separate fires, caused by the negligence of two different individuals, merge and destroy a building. In that case, both individuals can be held liable for the damage, as each of their actions was independently capable of causing the destruction.

C. Foreseeable vs. Unforeseeable Intervening Acts

The distinction between foreseeable and unforeseeable intervening acts is crucial in determining liability, as it directly impacts the chain of causation.

  1. Foreseeable Intervening Acts: These are events that are reasonably predictable to occur as a result of the defendant’s actions. In such cases, the chain of causation remains uninterrupted, and the defendant can be deemed liable for the plaintiff’s injury. For instance, if a person drives recklessly and hits a pedestrian, it is foreseeable that the pedestrian might suffer injuries.
  2. Unforeseeable Intervening Acts: On the other hand, unforeseeable intervening acts are events that cannot be reasonably anticipated as a consequence of the defendant’s conduct. When an unforeseeable intervening act occurs, it can potentially break the chain of causation and absolve the defendant of liability. For example, if an earthquake causes a building to collapse and injure a person, the building owner might not be held liable for the injuries, as the earthquake would be considered an unforeseeable intervening act.

In conclusion, understanding the types of intervening acts and their impact on legal cases is crucial for determining liability and causation. Whether it’s a superseding cause, a concurrent cause, or distinguishing between foreseeable and unforeseeable events, these concepts play a pivotal role in shaping the outcome of legal disputes.

Impact of Intervening Acts on Liability

Intervening acts can significantly influence the outcome of legal cases, particularly when determining a defendant’s liability. This section will explore how intervening acts can affect a defendant’s liability, the role of proximate cause and chain of causation, and the legal implications of intervening acts on negligence claims.

A. How Intervening Acts Can Affect a Defendant’s Liability

Intervening acts can either increase or absolve a defendant’s liability, depending on the nature of the event and its relationship with the initial action.

  1. Increased Liability: If the intervening act is foreseeable, the defendant may be held liable for the consequences of their action, as well as the subsequent harm caused by the intervening act. In such cases, the intervening act is considered a natural and expected result of the defendant’s conduct.
  2. Absolved Liability: If the intervening act is unforeseeable and breaks the chain of causation, the defendant may be absolved of liability. In this scenario, the defendant’s negligence does not directly lead to the plaintiff’s injury, and the intervening act is considered the primary cause.

B. Proximate Cause and the Chain of Causation

Proximate cause is a legal concept that establishes a connection between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s injury. It is a crucial element in determining liability, as it helps to identify whether the defendant’s conduct is the primary cause of harm, or if other factors have intervened.

The chain of causation refers to the sequence of events that links the defendant’s action to the plaintiff’s injury. To establish a defendant’s liability, it must be proven that their action was the proximate cause of the harm, and that there was an unbroken chain of causation.

Intervening acts can affect the chain of causation in the following ways:

  1. If the intervening act is foreseeable and does not break the chain of causation, the defendant may still be held liable for the plaintiff’s injury, as their action remains the proximate cause.
  2. If the intervening act is unforeseeable and severs the chain of causation, the defendant’s liability may be absolved, as the intervening act becomes the new proximate cause of harm.

C. Legal Implications of Intervening Acts on Negligence Claims

Intervening acts can have significant legal implications in negligence claims, as they can directly influence the determination of liability. Here are some key aspects to consider:

  1. Foreseeability: In negligence claims, the foreseeability of an intervening act is critical. If the act is deemed foreseeable, the defendant’s liability may be established. If the act is unforeseeable, the defendant may be absolved of liability, as the chain of causation is broken.
  2. Standard of Care: The presence of an intervening act may also affect the determination of the defendant’s duty and standard of care. If the defendant could not have reasonably foreseen the intervening act, their standard of care may not extend to the harm caused by that act.
  3. Joint and Several Liability: In cases where multiple intervening acts contribute to the plaintiff’s injury, the defendants may be held jointly and severally liable. Each defendant may be responsible for the entire amount of damages, regardless of their individual contribution to the harm.

In conclusion, the impact of intervening acts on liability is a complex and essential aspect of legal cases. Understanding how these acts can affect a defendant’s liability, the role of proximate cause, and the legal implications on negligence claims can help to better navigate and assess legal disputes.

Examples of Intervening Acts in Personal Injury Cases

Intervening acts play a vital role in personal injury cases, as they can directly affect the determination of liability and causation. In this section, we will explore examples of intervening acts in four common types of personal injury cases: medical malpractice, automobile accidents, premises liability, and product liability.

A. Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional’s negligence causes harm to a patient. Intervening acts in such cases can significantly impact the determination of liability.

  1. Example: A surgeon negligently leaves a surgical instrument inside a patient during surgery. Later, a nurse administers a medication that causes an unforeseeable allergic reaction, leading to the patient’s death. The nurse’s action could be seen as an unforeseeable intervening act, potentially breaking the chain of causation and absolving the surgeon of liability for the patient’s death.

B. Automobile Accidents

In automobile accidents, intervening acts can be crucial in determining the liability of the parties involved.

  1. Example: A driver is speeding and loses control of their vehicle, colliding with another car. Moments later, a third car crashes into the wreckage because the driver was texting and not paying attention. Here, the third driver’s negligence could be considered a concurrent cause, with both the speeding driver and the texting driver potentially held liable for the damages sustained in the accident.

C. Premises Liability

Premises liability cases arise when a property owner’s negligence causes injury to a visitor. Intervening acts can play a significant role in determining liability in these cases.

  1. Example: A store owner fails to clean up a spilled liquid on the floor, creating a slipping hazard. A customer slips on the liquid and falls, but their injuries are exacerbated by an unrelated, unforeseeable earthquake that occurs moments later. The earthquake could be deemed an unforeseeable intervening act, potentially reducing the store owner’s liability for the extent of the customer’s injuries.

D. Product Liability

Product liability cases involve injuries caused by defective or dangerous products. Intervening acts can influence the outcome of such cases by affecting the chain of causation.

  1. Example: A consumer purchases a defective power tool that has a faulty safety mechanism. While using the tool, the consumer disregards the manufacturer’s safety instructions and removes a protective guard, causing a severe injury. The consumer’s action of removing the protective guard could be considered a foreseeable intervening act, and the manufacturer may still be held liable for the injury, as their negligence in providing a faulty safety mechanism contributed to the harm.

In conclusion, intervening acts can significantly impact personal injury cases across various areas of law. Understanding how these acts can affect the determination of liability and causation is crucial for both plaintiffs and defendants in navigating the complexities of personal injury claims.

How to Prove an Intervening Act in Court

In the complex world of legal proceedings, proving an intervening act can be a crucial aspect of a case. An intervening act is an event or occurrence that happens between the original negligent act and the ultimate harm or injury, which breaks the chain of causation. This can significantly impact the outcome of a case, as it may absolve a defendant of liability for the resulting harm. In this section, we will explore the process of proving an intervening act in court, including establishing its presence, demonstrating its effect on the injury, and the role of expert witnesses.

A. Establishing the Presence of an Intervening Act

The first step in proving an intervening act is establishing its presence. This requires demonstrating to the court that an event or occurrence took place between the original negligent act and the harm or injury sustained by the plaintiff. To do this, the defendant must provide evidence of the intervening act, such as:

  1. Testimony from witnesses who observed the intervening act or its aftermath
  2. Physical evidence, like photographs or video recordings, that document the intervening act
  3. Records, such as police reports or medical records, that mention the intervening act

It’s important to note that the burden of proof lies with the defendant in this situation, as they must convince the court that the intervening act occurred and was a significant factor in the case.

B. Demonstrating the Effect of the Intervening Act on the Injury

Once the presence of an intervening act has been established, the defendant must then demonstrate how the act affected the injury in question. This involves proving that the intervening act was a direct and substantial cause of the plaintiff’s harm, ultimately breaking the chain of causation between the original negligent act and the injury.

This can be done by:

  1. Presenting evidence that shows the intervening act directly led to the plaintiff’s injury or exacerbated its severity
  2. Comparing the consequences of the original negligent act to the harm caused by the intervening act, highlighting how the latter played a significant role in the injury
  3. Demonstrating that the plaintiff’s injury would likely not have occurred, or would have been less severe, if not for the intervening act

C. The Role of Expert Witnesses

Expert witnesses can play a vital role in proving an intervening act in court. These professionals possess specialized knowledge in various fields, such as medical or engineering, which can provide valuable insights into the case.

Expert witnesses can assist by:

  1. Analyzing the evidence to determine the impact of the intervening act on the plaintiff’s injury
  2. Testifying about the likelihood of the intervening act causing or contributing to the harm sustained by the plaintiff
  3. Offering opinions on whether the intervening act was foreseeable or preventable, which can influence the court’s determination of liability

In conclusion, proving an intervening act in court is a multifaceted process that requires a thorough understanding of the legal framework, strong evidence, and the support of expert witnesses. By successfully establishing the presence of an intervening act, demonstrating its effect on the injury, and utilizing expert testimony, a defendant may be able to absolve themselves of liability for the plaintiff’s harm.

Conclusion

A. Importance of Understanding Intervening Acts in Personal Injury Cases

As we’ve explored throughout this blog post, understanding intervening acts is crucial in personal injury cases. These acts can significantly impact the determination of liability, the chain of causation, and the outcome of a case. Being knowledgeable about intervening acts can help both plaintiffs and defendants navigate the complex landscape of personal injury law and better prepare for the legal proceedings.

B. Potential Impact of Intervening Acts on the Outcome of a Case

Intervening acts can either absolve a defendant of liability or hold them responsible for the consequences of their actions and the subsequent harm caused by the intervening act. By demonstrating the presence of an intervening act and its effect on the injury, the outcome of a case may be significantly altered, emphasizing the importance of thorough legal analysis and presentation of evidence.

C. Encouragement to Seek Legal Advice for Specific Situations

Given the complexities of personal injury law and the potential impact of intervening acts on a case, it’s essential to seek the advice of experienced legal professionals for your specific situation. Scott S. Cohen and Thomas C. Sinowski, II of Cohen & Sinowski are dedicated to providing expert legal guidance in personal injury cases, ensuring the best possible outcome for their clients.

Never A Fee Guarantee

With their office located at 30 Trammell St. SW, Marietta, GA, you can easily reach Cohen & Sinowski for a free consultation by calling 404-351-8888 or emailing Tommy at Thomas@candspc.com. You can also visit their website at www.cohensinowski.com to learn more about their practice and the services they offer.

Remember, there’s no fee unless they win your case, and you can contact them directly through their website at HERE. Don’t leave your personal injury case to chance—trust in the expertise of Cohen & Sinowski because #localmatters.

In conclusion, intervening acts play a vital role in the world of personal injury law. By understanding their impact and seeking expert legal advice, you can better navigate the complexities of your case and work towards a successful resolution.

Cohen & Sinowski

The personal injury attorneys of Cohen & Sinowski are
dedicated to helping clients in the Metro Atlanta area.
Call Us Today! (404) 383-8835

Accessibility Accessibility
× Accessibility Menu CTRL+U