In my years as a Dallas / Fort Worth area personal injury attorney, I always dread those telephone calls when my client tells me they have been involved in a second accident while they are still in treatment for the first accident. That is because of a legal theory called “intervening cause.” Basically, this legal principle states that if a person is involved in a second accident, then any injuries from a subsequent accident may cut off the chain of causation from that date forward for any claims of the first accident. Here is a common example. Let’s assume you are involved in a car accident on May 1. From that accident, you claim you strained your neck and back, and begin physical therapy. Then on June 1, while you still under your doctor’s care, you are involved in a second accident. You then visit your doctor and complain of increased pain in your neck and back. Anyone can see how the the two accidents overlap, thereby creating a potential problem for both cases.
The insurance company for the first accident will try to claim that any complaints after the second accident were caused by the second accident and not the first. At the same time, the insurance company in the second accident will claim that the complaints from the second accident are substantially similar to the complaints from the first accident. Therefore, they will claim that the second accident did not result in any additional injury.
An intervening accident almost always causes problems in personal injury cases, especially cases involving soft-tissue injuries. This is because soft-tissue injuries are very subjective. Therefore, it becomes very difficult to distinguish the injury complaints between both accidents.
However, where a more serious and objective injury is involved, then an intervening accident may not pose such a problem. For example, let’s assume that someone fractured a leg in the first accident, but then fractured an arm in the second accident. In this example, the distinct injuries are easily separated between the two accidents. Likewise, the second accident will not have much effect on the injury claims of the first accident. But even in this example, the insurance company for the first accident might attempt to argue that any claims for pain and suffering become overshadowed by the pain and suffering of the second injury.
If you are involved in a second accident while you are treating for a previous accident, then you need to call your lawyer as soon as possible. Absolutely, positively, never discuss the second accident with anyone until you have spoken to your lawyer. Even if the insurance company calls you, politely excuse yourself from the call and contact your lawyer.