Negligence & Personal Injury Law
In relation to personal injury law, general negligence describes a situation where a party's action or inaction has constituted a failure to act with proper or reasonable care, resulting in harm to another person. Although there is a specific way to prove negligence, as described below, a good rule of thumb in determining whether another person or company has been negligent is to ask the question: would a reasonably prudent person have acted in the same or similar manner under the circumstances? If the answer is no, it is likely that the party was negligent. When a person is injured because of the recklessness or carelessness of another, that person may be able to sue the negligent party for financial compensation.
There are a number of different types of injury lawsuits that may be filed for injuries caused by general negligence, including dog bites, drowning, security negligence and negligent supervision. Other personal injury lawsuits that may involve negligence include motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall accidents, boating accidents and even medical malpractice, though malpractice cases are a specialized area of injury law involving highly technical matters and professionals held to a higher standard of conduct. These lawsuits are filed in civil court, where the plaintiff (injured party or representative of the injured party) can seek monetary compensation for physical, financial and emotional injuries and/or losses.
Proving the Elements of Negligence
There are four key elements that must be proven in filing a lawsuit against an individual or company for general negligence (this may vary depending on the jurisdiction; the information below is simply meant to provide helpful insight):
Duty. The defendant (party that stands accused of causing injury) must have had some sort of duty to the plaintiff (injured party) to act in a certain way. A good example may be the driver of a car. The driver has a duty to other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to obey traffic laws and drive in a reasonably safe and competent manner.
Breach. The defendant must have breached that duty in some way. As in the above example, a driver who is busy composing a text message and runs through a red light, striking a pedestrian, may be considered to have breached his/her duty to the pedestrian.
Causation. The defendant's act or inaction must have been the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries. In the above case involving a driver and a pedestrian, if the driver ran the red light because he/she was texting instead of paying attention to the road, and as a result of running the red light struck the pedestrian who was lawfully using the crosswalk to cross the street, this may be sufficient proof of causation.
Damage. The plaintiff must have experienced quantifiable damage of some kind. If the pedestrian suffered a broken leg and a concussion, the damage associated with these injuries may include medical expenses, lost earnings from missed work and possibly emotional trauma such as pain and suffering. The pedestrian would have the burden of proving that these damages were sustained; this is how the value of the personal injury lawsuit is determined.
Proving these four elements can be difficult, particularly when the defendant is an individual or corporation with considerable resources to counter such a lawsuit. That is why we recommend involving an experienced attorney to handle your case. Napoli Shkolnik PLLC is a powerful law firm with a reputation of success in New York and throughout the U.S. We have recovered more than $3 billion in settlements and awards since 2000 alone – now is the time to find out how we can help you.