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What Is Proof of Negligence in a Personal Injury Case?

In everyday life people typically try to avoid injuring themselves, their loved ones, or even strangers they encounter on the street. Although most people try to avoid any harmful acts, sometimes their actions, whether intentional or not, cause harm to someone. When someone is hurt because of someone else’s unreasonable actions, it is called negligence. If you are the injured victim (known as the plaintiff) in this case you may have a right to legal compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. However, the law requires specific proof in order to successfully make a personal injury claim. Read on to learn more about proving negligence in a personal injury case.

Examples of Negligence

The most common examples of accidents that result from negligence are car accidents, “trip and fall” or “slip and fall” incidents, and accidents at work or at construction sites. For example, in a “slip and fall” incident, a property owner’s failure to remove snow and/or apply de-icing chemicals in a timely manner may be an example of negligence. If that negligence causes someone to fall and injure themselves, it may be a basis to show that the property owner was legally responsible for the accident, even though the delay in removing snow was not intended to cause harm. Another good example of a negligent act is a driver’s use of a cell phone while driving a car. The driver did not intend to cause a car accident by using his cell phone, but his carelessness—or his failure to act reasonably safe under the circumstances—can cause a car accident and render him responsible for all injuries and damages that resulted from his conduct. Thus, despite the wide variety of cases and the different degrees of severity of harm those accidents can cause, all cases have one common cornerstone – the negligence of the party at fault.

The Four Elements of Negligence

In order to bring a civil action against a party at fault, simply proving that an action produced an injury is not enough to establish legal negligence in New York. In order to have a legal right to seek monetary compensation for all present and future damages sustained as a result of the negligent act of another, it must be proven that all four elements of negligence are present:

  • a duty of care is owed by a party at fault to an injured party;
  • a duty of care was breached by the party at fault;
  • there is causation between the breach and sustained injuries; and
  • damage was caused to the injured party.

When all four elements are present and proved, negligence is established. A common example in which all four elements of negligence are present is a car accident. All drivers owe a duty of care to other drivers and people they share the road with. If a driver decides to drive while intoxicated, they are breaching that duty of care because it is not responsible or safe to drive while in that state. If the intoxicated driver hits a pedestrian while driving and he is injured as a result, there is causation between the driver’s breach and the pedestrian’s injuries. Finally, the pedestrian’s injuries result in medical bills and loss of income because he cannot return to his job while recovering; these are damages that were caused to the injured party. In personal injury cases stemming from accidents or incidents based on negligence of another, the burden of proof of that negligence is on the plaintiff, the party bringing the lawsuit. In order to succeed in bringing the case and recover compensation, the plaintiff must prove presence of all four elements.

Proving Different Types of Negligence

Although in personal injury cases based on negligence the core element is an act of negligence attributable to a party at fault—a potential defendant—the conduct of the plaintiff at the time of the accident and the plaintiff’s degree of fault in the accident at issue also matters. Different states have adopted and now follow different rules, laws, and theories, which defendants use as a basis of their defense in cases which arose from their negligence. A few examples of such defenses are contributory negligence, assumption of risk, and comparative negligence.

Some states follow a contributory negligence rule, which bars the plaintiff’s right to recover any damages they sustained if the plaintiff contributed to their own damages by being negligent as well. In this case, the plaintiff would not be able to recover anything, even when the degree of the defendant’s fault is greater. However, most states now follow a rule of comparative negligence, which is when the plaintiff’s right to recover is not completely barred if the plaintiff was at some degree of fault. In those states, when both a plaintiff and a defendant are found negligent, the amount of damages the plaintiff will be able to recover will be reduced by the percentage of their own negligence. For instance, in the above example, if a driver was intoxicated and struck a pedestrian who was crossing an intersection against the light, it is possible the pedestrian could be found partially at fault for causing the accident, because they crossed the intersection when the light was red. In addition, states may have their own laws to determine what constitutes an act of negligence.

If you have been injured in an accident and are worried you may have contributed to causing it, a personal injury lawyer can discuss your case and state negligence laws with you. Call 212-736-5300 to speak to a New York personal injury attorney today.

Skilled Personal Injury Lawyers Ready to Help

Awareness of all possible defenses, knowledge of applicable laws, and their timely detailed analysis are extremely important when the plaintiff is at the early stage of considering filing a lawsuit. A meaningful analysis by an expert personal injury attorney will not only show strengths and weaknesses of a potential case, but in the future can also help to develop a case strategy and, as a result, expedite the process of resolving the case in the way most favorable to the injured party, so they can receive the maximum amount of compensation they deserve.

It is common that after an accident the plaintiff does not think about how the resulting consequences and their injuries will affect them years into the future. This is another reason why every personal injury case based on the negligence of another party requires a careful and thorough review by competent personal injury attorneys, like those at Block O’Toole & Murphy. It is an attorney who evaluates the case from different angles and presents it in court and, if necessary, in front of the jury in the best interest of the client.

Notable results Block O’Toole & Murphy has obtained for victims of negligence in personal injury cases include:

  • $110,174,972 record-breaking jury verdict for a 23-year-old cyclist who became paralyzed from the waist down after he was struck by a falling object dropped from the subway tracks above
  • $32,756,156 record-breaking jury verdict for a 60-year-old man who suffered catastrophic injuries after he was violently struck by an intoxicated driver
  • $22,500,000 settlement for a man who suffered serious injuries to his dominant left arm after he was involved in a car accident that resulted from icy roads the state had failed to clear
  • $15,000,000 settlement in a wrongful death case for the family of a 38-year-old HVAC worker who was tragically crushed on the job by an air chiller that had not been secured with the proper chains
  • $14,000,000 settlement for a motorcyclist who was struck by a truck making a left turn, resulting in a below-the-knee amputation

Call 212-736-5300 or fill out our contact form to speak to a qualified attorney today about your case.

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