When someone is injured or killed due to the negligent act of another party, the injured party or their family may seek compensation for their injury or loss through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. While there are some differences between these two types of claims, they both require that a plaintiff be able to establish that the named defendant’s actions caused the accident that resulted in the injury or death.
The element of causation is one of the most contested elements in Washington, D.C. personal injury cases. In part, this is because the underlying legal doctrine is complex, and each case must be considered on its specific facts. Additionally, even if a defendant is found to have begun a chain of events that ultimately resulted in the injury or death, the defendant can avoid liability by showing that an intervening act “severed” the causative chain. A recent case illustrates how another party’s actions can be deemed an intervening cause, preventing a defendant from being held liable.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiffs were the parents of a young man who was admitted to the defendant hospital after he started to hear voices and hallucinate. The doctors at the defendant hospital diagnosed the plaintiffs’ son with obsessive-compulsive disorder and planned on discharging the young man later that day. The plaintiffs, concerned about their son’s wellbeing, asked if there was anything else that they could do. The doctors told them that they should make an appointment at a mental health facility.