1 minute read


Actual, Concurrent, And Intervening Cause

The actual cause is the event directly responsible for an injury. If one person shoves another, thereby knocking the other person out an open window and he or she breaks a leg as a result of the fall, the shove is the actual cause of the injury. The immediate cause of the injury in this case would be the fall, since it is the cause that came right before the injury, with no intermediate causes. In some cases the actual cause and the immediate cause of an injury may be the same.

Concurrent causes are events occurring simultaneously to produce a given result. They are contemporaneous, but either event alone would bring about the effect that occurs. If one person stabs another person who is simultaneously being shot by a third person, either act alone could cause the person's injury.

An INTERVENING CAUSE is one that interrupts the normal flow of events between the wrong and the injury. It comes between an expected sequence of occurrences to produce an unanticipated result. If someone driving under the influence of alcohol grazes a telephone pole that is rotted and thus knocks it down, the condition of the pole would be the intervening cause of its collapse. This is important in determining the liability of the intoxicated driver. If the telephone company knew or should have known about the unsafe condition of the pole and negligently failed to replace it, the telephone company would be responsible for the harm caused by the falling pole. Depending upon how hard the driver hit the pole, the driver may be held contributorily negligent, or partially liable, for the accident that took place.

An intervening efficient cause is one that totally supersedes the original wrongful act or omission. For example, an intoxicated cabdriver transports a person in a cab with faulty brakes. An accident occurs, which is a direct result of the intoxication rather than the faulty brakes. The injury resulting to the passenger is attributable to the driver's condition. The intervening efficient cause thereby broke the causal connection between the original wrong of the faulty brakes and the injury.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Robert Lee Carter - Further Readings to Child MolestationCause - Cause And Causality In American Law, Actual, Concurrent, And Intervening Cause, Proximate, Unforeseeable, And Remote Cause