A personal injury claim is a legal right to compensation arising from an injury to a person. Typically, this injury is caused by misconduct such as negligence or intentional misconduct. 

In some cases, however, the victim of the injury does not need to prove misconduct to win. In other cases, the party responsible for the injury is not the party that caused it. Serious injury claims sometimes generate large recoveries.

Types of Personal Injury Claims

One way to classify personal injury claims is by the conduct of the defendant. Did the defendant cause the accident through misconduct? Did they act intentionally? Alternatively, does some other theory of liability apply?

Elements of a Negligence Claim

Most personal injury claims are based on a concept known as negligence. Negligence means something like carelessness. You must prove four facts to win a negligence claim — duty of care, breach of duty, damages, and causation.

Duty of Care

Every mentally competent adult owes everyone else a duty of ordinary care. This “duty of care” is usually defined by common sense. Don’t leave a pair of roller skates on a staircase, for example. In other cases, an elevated professional duty of care is required. As a physician,  you must make decisions on behalf of your patient that reflect a reasonable degree of professional judgment based on your knowledge and training.

Breach of Duty

You breach your duty of care when you fail to meet its demands. You might breach your duty of care by doing something you shouldn’t do, such as running a red light in traffic. On the other hand, you might also breach your duty of care by failing to do something that you should have done, such as perform maintenance on electrical wiring in a building.


To win a personal injury claim, you must have suffered some sort of physical injury. If your doctor falsely tells you that you have terminal cancer, and it scares you, you have no personal injury claim. You might, however, have a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress

Once you establish that you suffered a physical injury, you can also recover for psychological injuries such as emotional distress or pain and suffering. You cannot recover for intangible psychological losses, however, until you first prove that you suffered a tangible bodily injury. You must translate your injuries into a dollar-based claim for monetary compensation. You cannot receive a dime more than you can prove through admissible evidence.


Causation is the thread that connects the at-fault party’s behavior with the damages you suffered. New York law recognizes two different forms of causation—cause in fact and proximate causation.

You establish cause in fact by proving that your injuries would not have occurred but for the adult party’s conduct. “I wouldn’t have broken my leg if the defendant had not failed to install a railing in the stairwell.”  

You establish proximate cause by proving that your injuries were a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s behavior. The proximate cause requirement might rule out compensation for a freak accident on the grounds that the defendant could not have foreseen the accident and is, therefore, not responsible for its consequences. 

Intentional Torts

Suppose that a bar bouncer unjustly beats you while you are a customer in a nightclub. Your injuries qualify you to pursue a personal injury claim against either the bouncer or the nightclub. Since the bouncer probably works for minimum wage, your best bet is to file a personal injury claim against the nightclub on the theory that the nightclub is responsible for the wrongful behavior of its employees (vicarious liability).

In this case, you cannot claim that the bouncer was negligent. After all, they injured you intentionally. Instead, you must claim that the bouncer committed an intentional tort. To prove an intentional tort, simply replace the “duty of care” and “breach of duty” elements discussed above with “intentional act.”

Strict Liability Claims

In a strict liability claim, you do not have to prove that the defendant engaged in misconduct. In a product liability claim, for example, you must prove (among other things) that the product was defective, unreasonably dangerous, and that its defect injured you. Nowhere is fault included.

Common Personal Injury Practice Areas

The most common personal injury practice areas include:

There are dozens of other types of personal injury claims that you might assert.

Let a New York Personal Injury Lawyer Help

A personal injury lawyer will charge you based on a pre-agreed percentage of whatever amount you win in court or at the settlement table. Typically, the lawyer’s contingency fee is around 33%. If you win nothing, you pay nothing in legal fees. What do you have to lose?

Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in New York City

If you’ve been injured in an accident in Manhattan, NY, and need legal help, contact our New York City personal injury lawyers at Rosenbaum Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation.

Rosenbaum Personal Injury Lawyers
100 Wall St 15th Floor
New York, NY 10005
(212) 514-5007