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What is Negligence?

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What is Negligence?

What is Negligence?

If you have been hurt in an accident or because of another party’s wrongdoing, you could be entitled to compensation for your damages. However, you must first prove that the person was “negligent” to hold them financially liable for your damages. Understanding the legal elements of negligence can help you win your injury case in New York.

What Does it Mean to Be Negligent?

Generally, a person is negligent when they fail to act with reasonable care. The level of care is measured by what a “reasonable person” would have done in the same or similar situation. A reasonable person is someone whose conduct is legally appropriate. The conduct is what you would expect from a person of ordinary prudence and care.

A jury determines what a reasonable person would have done in a situation similar to the defendant’s. The jurors compare the defendant’s conduct to that of the “reasonable person.” If the defendant’s conduct does not meet the reasonable person standard, they may find that the defendant was negligent.

However, finding a person is negligent is not sufficient to hold that person liable for damages. Instead, you must prove each of the four elements of negligence to recover compensation for your injuries and damages.

What Are the Legal Elements of a Negligence Claim?

When you are in court, you have the burden of proving the following four elements to establish negligence. Each element links together to prove that the defendant caused your injury and is financially liable for your damages.

Duty of Care

To be responsible for your damages after an accident, a person must have owed you a duty of care to avoid injuring you. The duty of care is the legal requirement to act in a certain way with regard to another person. The duty of care is based on the relationship between the parties.

For example, medical providers owe a duty of care to their patients to provide care that meets or exceeds the accepted medical standard of care for a given situation. Manufacturers owe a duty of care to provide safe products. Individuals operating a motor vehicle have a duty of care to avoid accidents and obey traffic laws. Likewise, a property owner owes a duty of care to visitors and guests to maintain safe premises.

Breach of Duty of Care

Breaching the duty of care means that the person’s conduct failed to meet the reasonable person standard in the case. In other words, the person failed to act as a reasonable person and caused injury to another.

An example of a breach of the duty of care might be a driver rear-ending another vehicle due to texting while driving. Another example might be a property owner failing to repair a broken staircase.


A person could be negligent without being responsible for a person’s damages. You must prove that the breach of care was a direct and proximate cause of your injury. In other words, you must show you would not have been injured had it not been for the defendant’s conduct.

Causation can be the most difficult element of negligence to prove. Personal injury attorneys gather evidence that proves the other person was at fault, but there may not be a great deal of physical evidence proving fault. Expert witnesses can help in some cases, such as accident reconstructionists in car accident cases.


You must have sustained damages to recover money for a personal injury claim. Damages may include economic damages, such as lost wages, personal care costs, medical bills, and travel expenses. They may also include non-economic damages, such as pain, suffering, disabilities, and disfigurement.

Keeping detailed records of financial losses and your daily journey to recover from your injuries can help document damages for your injury claim.

What Types of Cases Involve Negligence Claims?

Negligence is a legal cause of action in most personal injury cases including, but not limited to:

Some types of personal injury claims may involve allegations of strict liability, intentional criminal acts, negligence per se, or other causes of action. A personal injury lawyer analyzes the facts of the case to determine what legal claims may apply.

What is the Deadline for Filing a Negligence Claim?

The New York statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is three years from the date of the accident or injury. However, some exceptions could significantly shorten that deadline, such as claims involving government entities.

The deadline for filing wrongful death claims is just two years. Medical malpractice cases also have a different deadline for filing claims: typically two years and six months from the date of the malpractice or the date of the last continuous treatment received from the provider.

Contact Our New York Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation

Waiting to talk with a personal injury lawyer about your injury case could result in costly errors and mistakes. Call the Law Offices of Jay S. Knispel Personal Injury Lawyers at (212) 564 2800 to schedule your free consultation with a New York personal injury attorney. Get the answers and information you need to protect your legal rights.

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