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New York Personal Injury Attorneys

What Must Plaintiffs in NYC Negligence Cases Prove?

January 26, 2020 in

Cases of negligence in New York City rely on a plaintiff’s ability to define, determine, and prove negligence occurred. At first glance, demonstrating that a careless act caused an injury may seem simple, but there are multiple legal standards that must be met before a case of negligence can even be considered. The following must be established to hold another party accountable for compensating you for your personal injuries and economic losses.

What is Negligence?

Negligence is a term used to define a person or party’s failure to exercise the appropriate care that a reasonable person would have under the same circumstances. That may mean doing something wrong, or failing to do the right thing. It is a vital factor in establishing a legal case against a party who has caused another individual to suffer great losses, such as in a medical malpractice or car accident claim.

If negligence is present, there are four elements that must be proven, in order for a plaintiff to hold a defendant liable.

Duty of Care

This refers to the legal duty to exercise reasonable care in preventing others from being harmed. The duty of care is what separates an unavoidable accident from an injury accident caused by negligence. For instance, drivers have a duty to follow the rules of the road, such as coming to a complete stop at red lights and stop signs. They are also expected to use their turn signals when changing lanes. Doctors have a legal obligation which requires a physician to possess the training and skills of other doctors in their community. A case of negligence can only exist if a plaintiff can show that the defendant owed them a duty of care when the injury occurred.

Breach of Duty of Care

This is a failure by the defendant to fulfill the duty of care that was owed in the situation where a personal injury or death occurred. A breach could be a failure to act to prevent injury to the plaintiff, or a wrongful action taken by the defendant. However, some situations call for a higher or lower standard of care, depending on the relationship between the parties. There are a variety of situations in which such a duty can be breached. Some examples are a distracted driver causing an accident, a manufacturer producing a contaminated drug or a defective product, a doctor prescribing an incorrect medication or failing to order laboratory tests, etc.

Whether a person acted “reasonably” due to the degree of care expected of them, is often the most difficult and contentious issue that a jury will decide at trial.

Proximate Cause

It must be proven that the defendant’s breach of duty of care was the direct cause of the injury means that a wrongdoer can only be held responsible for the harm caused by their actions or their failure to act.


The final element in proving a case of negligence is damages. Plaintiffs must provide evidence on the nature and extent of their injuries and financial losses, as the purpose of a claim is to obtain compensation. Damages from an injury can include medical bills, lost income, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and more. These typically include both past and future damages for pain, suffering and economic loss.

Let Us Review Your Case for Free

Victims of negligence have a limited amount of time to pursue damages in New York due to what is called the statute of limitations. We have the tools, skills, and resources needed to prove your claim. Contact the New York City personal injury attorneys at Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo, P.C. today by calling (212) 732-9000 and schedule your free consultation.

Free Case Evaluation

Our fee is on a contingency basis. If we don’t recover money for you, we will never charge you. If you are unable to come to any of our offices, we are happy to visit you at home or in the hospital.

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