How the Doctrine of “Intervening Cause” Affects Liability for Vehicle Accidents in New Mexico

Although most people spend a great deal of time and energy trying to avoid accidents, sometimes getting into an accident is out of their control. In many accidents, it is quite clear who is at fault. However, many times, when multiple vehicles are involved, it can difficult to ascertain and apportion liability.
Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 1.18.34 PMGenerally, before a party commences a personal injury lawsuit they must be able to show that a named defendant owed them a duty of care, that they breached that duty, and that the breach resulted in actual or proximate injuries. However, a problem arises when the person who caused the actual injury puts forth a defense claiming that some event occurred after the defendant’s allegedly negligent act that ultimately caused the accident. This is called an intervening cause.

The only way this defense will be viable is if the defendant’s actions were interrupted by some unforeseeable event. However, even if there is an intervening cause, the defendant may still be liable if the event was foreseeable. Further, there are two distinct types of intervening causes: dependent and independent. A dependent intervening cause is when the defendant sets a series of events in motion. The only way the defendant will avoid liability in this situation is if a response was considered “extraordinary.” On the other hand, independent intervening causes are resulting events that occur completely independently of the original action by the defendant; this is considered unforeseeable.

Vehicle Accident Causes Train Tracks to Shift and Result in another Accident

Earlier this month, a national news outlet reported on tragic accident involving a feed delivery vehicle and an Amtrak train. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stated that the accident occurred in Kansas when the feed vehicle hit train tracks and caused the tracks to shift over one foot. Apparently, that shift caused an Amtrak train to derail and cause injuries to about 32 people.

The NTSB spokesperson recounted details of the accident and explained that the train was in the middle of a 43-hour trip from Los Angeles to Chicago and was traveling 60 mph when the engineer must have noticed that the tracks were shifted. He applied the emergency brakes and stopped about 18 seconds later. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, at least 32 out of the 131 passengers and 14 crew members suffered injuries-some with severe injuries.

Investigators from NTSB have been in the process of reviewing cameras and recorders on the train and cross-referencing with the condition of the rails and performance of the crew. At this point all parties have been fully cooperative. However, the NTSB states a full report will not be completed until at least a year.

Have You Been Injured When Multiple Factors Were in Play?

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries because of a vehicle accident, you should strongly consider contacting an attorney at the Fine Law Firm. An experienced and knowledgeable attorney is crucial in these types of cases. An accident case can already be extremely traumatizing and emotionally grueling; an attorney at the Fine Law Firm can help ease that stress by handling the necessary legal procedures for you. The attorneys at Fine Law Firm will do everything they can to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve as quickly as possible. Contact an attorney at the Fine Law Firm today at 800-640-6590 to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

State Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Accident Victims Injured at Gas Station Walk-Up Window, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, March 1, 2016.

Appellate Court Affirms Denial of Plaintiff’s Medical Malpractice Claim Based on Lack of Expert Witness Testimony, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, February 22, 2016.