What Are Proximate and Superseding Causes in Personal Injury Cases?

There are various elements that must be present in order for a person to successfully recover compensation after sustaining an injury caused by another party. These elements include establishing that there was a duty of care between a plaintiff and a defendant, showing that the defendant breached their duty of care, and showing that the breach actually caused the injury.

But we need to examine “cause” more closely, particularly looking at approximate causes and superseding causes and how this can affect a personal injury claim. A Seattle accident lawyer can help you navigate this process. 

What is a Proximate Cause?

A proximate cause in a personal injury case would be the ideal scenario to help individuals recover compensation because this establishes a direct link between the negligent actions of a defendant and the injuries the plaintiff sustained.

You can only have a proximate cause when the actions of the at-fault party occur in a direct and unbroken sequence of events that directly causes the accident or injuries of the plaintiff. For example, if one driver is following another driver too closely and is looking at their cell phone, leading to them slamming into the back of another vehicle at a stop sign, the impact would be the proximate cause of any injuries the drivers and passengers sustained as a result of the collision.

What is a Superseding Cause?

A superseding cause could undermine the proximate cause in a personal injury case. Superseding causes occur if there is another event that happens along the way that could end up shielding the at-fault party from liability for the injuries sustained by another party. The superseding cause is unforeseeable and breaks that sequence of events we mentioned as a part of the proximate cause.

For example, let us say that you have been in a vehicle accident due to another driver running a stop sign while you were going through the intersection. As if this was not unfortunate enough, let us also imagine that you get out of the vehicle and then trip over debris in the roadway that you did not see, leading to a broken arm. This is a good example of a superseding cause that was unforeseeable and broke the chain of events started by the other driver running the stop sign.

In this situation, the at-fault driver would not be responsible for any injuries resulting from the trip and fall incident, namely the broken arm. However, this does not necessarily mean that there is no personal injury case against the other driver. They would be responsible for any injuries caused by the initial impact.

Working With a Seattle Attorney

If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident caused by the negligence of another Washington driver, we encourage you to reach out to a Seattle personal injury attorney immediately. This is especially important if the other side tries to shift blame for the incident onto another individual or a superseding incident. An attorney will investigate the case, gather evidence, and help prove what happened. The goal in these situations is to recover compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering damages, and any other losses you incur as a result of the incident.