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The Basics of a Negligence Claim for Personal Injury Compensation

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Peter J. Gregory
Jun 10, 2023
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Personal injury claims arising from negligence are common legal matters. Negligence refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm or injury to another person. If you have been injured due to someone else's negligence, understanding the basic elements of a negligence personal injury claim can help you navigate the legal process and seek the compensation you deserve. This article will provide a brief overview of the analysis involved in pursuing a negligence personal injury claim in New York State. Generally, a negligence claim can be broken down into four distinct elements: (1) Duty, (2) Breach, (3) Causation, and (4) Damages. In order to make a recovery in a personal injury or other negligence related action, all of these elements must be met by an injured person:

Duty of Care

The first element requires proof that the defendants owed a duty of care to the injured plaintiff. This duty can arise in a variety of common relationships we experience on a day-to-day basis. Traditionally, relationships which have been recognized as creating a duty of care include but are not limited to: patient and doctor, driver and passenger or other road users, manufacturer and consumer, store owner and customer, and in some cases employer and employee.

Breach of Duty

The second element builds off the first, and after establishing that there was an owed duty of care, it requires that the plaintiff prove that the defendant breached the duty of care. In this analysis the court will in most cases employ a “reasonable person” standard. This standard examines whether the defendant varied from actions that an ordinary person would have considered appropriate given the totality of the circumstances. This element will look at both the action and inaction of the defendant to determine whether there was a breach of the duty of care.


The third element ensures that the defendant’s duty of care breach was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. To fulfil the requirements of this element, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s conduct was both the actual (a.k.a. cause in fact), and proximate (a.k.a. legal) cause of the injury.

  • Actual Causation. This refers to proving that the defendant's actions were the actual cause of the injuries. In other words, if the defendant had not breached their duty, the harm would not have occurred.
  • Proximate Causation. To prove proximate cause, the plaintiff must show that the injury suffered was a “reasonably foreseeable consequence” of the defendant’s conduct. Proximate cause relates to foreseeability. It involves demonstrating that the injuries were a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the defendant's breach. The harm suffered must be directly connected to the defendant's negligent actions without any intervening causes


The final element is to prove that there was a compensable injury, an injury that can be remedied by a court through an award of damages, usually in the form of a monetary award. Damages refer to the physical, emotional, and financial losses resulting from the injury. Compensatory damages can include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, disability, property damage, and more. In New York, there is no cap on compensatory damages, allowing victims to seek full and fair compensation for their losses.

Comparative Negligence

It should also be noted that New York law follows the principle of comparative negligence. This means that if the injured party is partially responsible for the accident, their compensation may be reduced in proportion to their degree of fault. However, as long as the injured party's fault is not greater than the defendant's, they may still recover financial compensation. It is crucial to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can navigate the complexities of a negligence claim and protect your rights.

If you or a loved one has sustained a serious injury caused by the negligence of another person, an experienced personal injury attorney can help. It is important to consult with a lawyer early to investigate your options and preserve crucial evidence.  For assistance with these matters, please contact us to learn more.

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About the author: Peter J. Gregory is a partner with MCCM Personal Injury Lawyers in Rochester, NY.  He is a trial lawyer with extensive experience resolving disputes in state and federal trial courts. As a personal injury lawyer, Gregory focuses on advising clients who have been injured or lost loved ones in accidents caused by the carelessness or recklessness of others. Please feel free to contact him directly at or (585) 512-3506.

This publication is intended as an information source for clients, prospective clients, and colleagues and constitutes attorney advertising. The content should not be considered legal advice and readers should not act upon information in this publication without individualized professional counsel.

About MCCM

McConville Considine Cooman & Morin, P.C. is a full-service law firm based in Rochester, New York, providing high-quality legal services to businesses and individuals since 1979.  With over a dozen attorneys and a full paralegal support staff, the firm is well-positioned to right-size services tailored to each client. We are large enough to provide expertise in a broad range of practice areas, yet small enough to devote prompt, personal attention to our clients.

We represent a diverse range of clients located throughout New York State and New England.  They include individuals, numerous manufacturing and service industry businesses, local governments, and health care professionals, provider groups, facilities and associations. We also serve as local counsel to out-of-state clients and their attorneys who have litigation pending in Western New York courts.  For more information, please contact us at 585.546.2500.