4 Elements to Prove Another Party is Negligent

The basis for most personal injury lawsuits is a legal concept known as negligence. If you’re considering filing a claim, in order to receive compensation for an injury, then it can be helpful to understand what these four distinct elements are and how they relate to one another to form the basis of any claim.

The definition of negligence is “the failure to do an act that a reasonably prudent person would do, or the doing of an act which a reasonably prudent person would not do, under the same or similar circumstances to protect oneself or others from bodily injury, death, property damage.”

Negligent conduct most often involves an action, such as hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk or running a stop sign. But negligence also encompasses inaction, in other words a failure to act, which could include a building owner who does not fix a crack in the sidewalk  or a business owner who negligently fails to fix a hazardous condition that could injure a costumer.

While we may use the term negligent broadly in our day to day lives, a legal claim involving negligence has four distinct elements, all of which must be proven in order to win an injury case . If you fail to prove even one of these four elements, then you will not be able to be compensated for your injuries.

  1. Duty of Care

Duty of Care is when the law recognizes a certain relationship between two parties where one party has a legal obligation to protect the other from physical harm. This can cover a wide range of situations, but common examples where duty of care exists include the following:

  • Drivers have a duty of care to exercise caution with other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians that share the roadway. Additionally, they are required to abide by all laws and traffic signals and see what is there to be seen.
  • A business owner has a duty to keep the premises safe for customers, should regularly inspect the property to fix any problems within a reasonable length of time and should warn customers in the meantime.
  • Manufacturers of products or pharmaceuticals have a duty to ensure that their products do not pose an unreasonable harm to customers and that the customers must be warned of any dangers or risks.
  1. Breach of Care

The second element is when someone has breached their duty of care. The court will look at what a “reasonably prudent person” would do under similar circumstances, which basically means how the average person would act in a given situation.

  1. Causation

Next, it must be proven that the breach of duty was the proximate cause of the harm suffered by the injured person. In New York this means that the plaintiff can only recover damages if the negligence is a substantial factor in causing the incident that caused the injury. It does not have to be the only factor, it just has to be a substantial factor.  For example, a driver might have changed lanes without signaling before being hit by another driver from behind. However if that other driver hits the non-signaling driver in the rear thirty seconds after the non-signaling driver made it safely into the other driver’s lane, the non-signaling driver might have been negligent for failing to signal, but his/her negligence was not a substantial factor in causing the collision.  In other words, it was not a proximate cause of the collision.

  1. Damages

Finally, the fourth element of negligence involves damages. Damages are the legal term for any pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, lost income or money spent on medical treatment.

Proving Negligence

As you can see, the four elements of negligence are closely intertwined and are critical to any personal injury lawsuit. If you were injured in an accident and believe that your situation contains all these elements, then you may be able to receive monetary compensation for the damages you suffered. If you’re not sure whether you can satisfy all four of these elements, then you may still want to speak with a personal injury lawyer who can help identify and prove all four elements and tell you what legal recourses may be available to you.

Every personal injury case is different, but they all require a personalized approach and investigation in order to meet the four elements that prove negligence. The personal injury attorneys at Greenberg & Stein have more than 75 years of combined experience and will fight to make sure you receive the compensation you need if you’ve been injured due to the fault of another person or business.

We offer free, 24/7 legal consultations and can walk you through what legal options are available to you following your injury in New York City. Contact us today at 888-411-3966.