When some sort of incident happens causing an injury, the average person has no clue whether or not it can be the basis for a negligence lawsuit. So, in this post I want help explain the general law regarding what you need to prove to pursue a negligence based injury lawsuit so that you can have some understanding of it, if or when such an unfortunate event happens.
There are four main elements to proving a negligence claim, specifically in New York, where our firm is located.
1. DUTY – You must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care at the time of the accident. An example is a the duty a driver has to stop at a light and not ram into your car, or a the duty a property owner’s has to maintain his premises in a safe condition.
2. A BREACH of THIS DUTY – You, the plaintiff must demonstrate, by the burden of proof standard which is simply that its more likely than not (see my post on burden of proof), that the defendant was negligent in fulfilling his duty. This can be where the defendant took some negligent action or he or she failed to act in a way that did not satisfy the accepted standards of conduct.
3. CAUSATION – you need to prove that defendant’s actions caused the damages, (most commonly the injuries) you are alleging.
4. DAMAGES – you need to prove that you suffered damages as a result of this incident. Damages as I’ve discussed in other posts, can be things like physical injuries and their associated pain and suffering, medical costs, out of pocket costs, lost wages and earning capacity, or even the death of a loved one.
So for example, if you fall on a severely broken up sidewalk and broke your wrist you simply must prove that the property owner had a duty to keep the sidewalk in a safe condition which he failed to do (clearly), that you broke your wrist from the fall on the broken sidewalk, and that you suffered these injuries which are causing pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, significant medical bills, and any other damages you’ve sustained.
As you can tell, some cases are harder than others to prove all 4 elements, but now you have an understanding of the general ideas of what it takes to pursue and win case. So if you’re ever unfortunately in this situation, call an experienced lawyer, and remember there is no cost to do that.