What is Negligence?

What is Negligence?

Negligence is one of the most common types of personal injury lawsuits. These claims are brought under state law for various types of accidents. And each state has its own laws and legal standards related to negligence. 

If you have been hurt in an accident, make sure you speak to an experienced attorney.

Understanding Tort Liability

Negligence claims fall under an area of law known as “torts.” Torts are civil wrongs based on someone’s action or omission.

Tort claims can arise when someone intentionally hurts others, such as in the case of assault and battery, or when a person acts negligently. Tort liability also exists for product manufacturers whose defective products cause someone harm. 

The Elements of a Negligence Claim

There are four main elements in a negligence claim:

1.     The defendant owed a legal duty to the victim;

2.     The defendant breached that duty;

3.     The defendant’s breach caused the victim harm;

4.     The harm resulted in damages to the victim.

Once you prove that another party owed you a duty, you must then prove they breached the duty. 

What is a Duty?

Negligence claims happen when someone violates a legal duty they owe to another and causes them injury. Legal duties are based on personal or professional relationships, and they arise from law or custom. 

For example, doctors and lawyers have professional duties to their patients and clients. Likewise, drivers on the road have a duty to others using the road to drive safely and follow all traffic laws. Property owners also owe guests a duty to maintain safe premises.

When a party breaches their duty and causes injury, the injury victim might have a negligence claim.

What is a Breach of Duty?

Generally, a party breaches their duty when they fail to act as a reasonable person would have under similar circumstances. This is referred to as the “reasonable person standard.”

The reasonable person is a hypothetical person that uses common sense and prudence to avoid injuring others — it is not a real person. A jury determines whether a party acted reasonably under the circumstances. If it finds that a person failed to act reasonably and caused harm to another, they might find the person breached their duty.

For example, suppose a store owner sees a puddle on the floor but fails to clean it up. A passenger slips on the puddle several hours later. The store owner may have breached their duty to maintain safe premises for guests. A reasonable store owner would clean up spills on their floor to avoid harm to its customers.

What is Causation?

Proving causation is also important to a negligence claim. That someone breached their duty to you does not mean you will automatically receive money damages for an injury. 

You must show the breach of duty was the actual and proximate cause of your harm. You will prove causation by showing your injury would not have happened “but for” the defendant’s conduct. Moreover, you must show that you suffered foreseeable injuries.

What Are Damages?

The last element of negligence is damages. You can only recover compensation in an injury claim if you suffered losses related to the accident. If you didn’t, a court or insurance company has nothing to compensate you for.

You must prove that you are eligible for economic and non-economic damages related to your injuries. Economic damages represent your financial losses after an accident, including lost wages, medical expenses, and property damage. These damages account for future costs also.

Non-economic damages represent your personal, non-monetary losses after an accident. These intangible losses include pain and suffering, disfigurement, emotional distress, and more. These damages can make up a significant portion of a negligence claim

How Your Fault Matters in a Negligence Claim 

Many accidents have multiple at-fault parties. Multiple parties can be negligent for the same accident, and multiple parties can be responsible for an injury victim’s damages. Sometimes, an injury victim contributed to their accident or injury. The law has a way of dealing with these scenarios.

New York operates under a pure comparative negligence standard. You are entitled to recover money for your damages as long as you are not completely at fault for an accident. The court will merely reduce your damages to account for your share of fault.

For example, let’s say you are hurt in a car accident and suffer $100,000 in damages. If the court finds that you are 30% at fault for the accident, then the maximum you will be able to recover is $70,000 (30%).

In many states, if you are over 50% at fault, then you will not be able to recover anything. In New York, you can be 99% at fault and still receive 1% compensation for your claim. 

Contact a New York City Personal Injury Lawyer for Help with Your Negligence Claim

If you have been hurt due to the negligence of another, it is important to speak with an a New York City personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will investigate your accident to determine its cause and identify liable parties. They will gather evidence showing other parties’ negligence and help you recover the compensation you deserve for your injuries.