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What is the negligence law in New York?

The New York negligence law allows personal injury victims to hold those accountable who injure them by failing to exercise reasonable care. Meirowitz & Wasserberg, LLP helps clients recover compensation when these injuries impair their quality of life and reduce their financial security.

New York law allows individuals to hold those accountable who injure them through negligence. However, establishing negligence is not always straightforward. Once negligence has been established, you may be entitled to recover compensation through a civil lawsuit.

The attorneys at Meirowitz & Wasserberg, LLP help individuals who have been injured due to someone else’s negligence. Our team fights to get the compensation they need to recover from their injuries, experience a sense of justice and ameliorate the resulting financial stress.

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What is negligence?​

Negligence is an action or omission that is inconsistent with the course of action a prudent individual would take given the circumstances. Individuals whose negligent conduct results in injuries to others are liable for the damages.

In a civil lawsuit, the burden of proof that negligence occurred is on the injured party. To meet this burden, the party must show by clear and convincing evidence that the four basic elements of negligence are present.

Duty of Care

A duty of care is the legal obligation to follow a reasonable course of conduct. Nearly every individual is responsible for exercising a duty of care, but these duties are heightened in specific circumstances.

Driving a Motor Vehicle


All drivers owe other drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists the following reasonable duties of care:

  • Obey traffic laws, including posted speed limits.
  • Avoid distracting activities and pay full attention to the road.
  • Avoid risky behaviors like drag racing.
  • Exercise caution by adjusting to road and weather conditions.
  • Respond reasonably to sudden hazards and emergencies on the road.
  • Maintain your vehicle in a manner that prevents hazards.

Maintaining a Property


Whether you are a renter, homeowner or business owner, you owe others a duty to maintain your property in such a way as to ensure no hazards are present that could injure guests, patrons and others who are legally on your property. Examples of prudent property maintenance include the following:

  • Ensuring sidewalks are well-maintained and free of debris and trip hazards
  • Ensuring snow and ice are removed from public areas promptly and in accordance with state and local laws
  • Ensuring flooring and rugs lay flat, especially in entrances and exits
  • Maintaining proper lighting
  • Ensuring adequate security is present where applicable
  • Maintaining steps and stairways, including handrails

Health Care Providers


Health care providers include doctors, nurses, therapists, facilities, pharmacists and any other health care professionals who provide health care services. Health care providers have a legal obligation to provide patients with a reasonable standard of care, which is defined as following the protocols any prudent health care provider working in the same capacity would provide given the circumstances.

Breach of Duty

A breach of duty occurs when an individual owes a duty of care to another but fails to provide it. Examples of a breach of duty include the following:

  • Driving errors
    • Drunk driving
    • Distracted driving
    • Speeding
    • Disobeying traffic controls
    • Failing to watch for motorcycles, pedestrians and bicyclists
  • Medical malpractice
    • Diagnostic errors
    • Surgical errors
    • Medication errors
    • Birthing errors
    • Nursing home neglect and abuse
  • Product liability
    • Unsafe design
    • Defective product (poor quality control)
    • Failure to warn or adequately instruct

Sufferance of an Injury

Negligent conduct alone is inadequate to incur liability. In order to file a civil lawsuit, a plaintiff must first establish that an injury resulted from the negligent acts or omissions, which would not have occurred if it were not for the breach of duty.

As Cornell Law School points out, economic loss alone does not rise to the level of injury. To qualify as an injury, a plaintiff must prove that bodily injury or property damage occurred as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty.

Does emotional distress count as an injury?


Emotional distress and mental anguish are often included as non-economic damages in personal injury cases with accompanying physical injuries. When psychological injuries impair quality of life, impact an individual’s ability to perform daily activities and incur costs for treatment, they may meet the criteria for injury.

In cases of emotional distress as a result of witnessing a severe injury or death, New York case law provides specific guidelines as to who can recover compensation. This is known as negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED).

In these cases, damages are only recoverable by immediate family members who were present within the danger zone as bystanders when the death or severe injury occurred.

Proximate Cause

In addition to establishing that an injury occurred, a plaintiff must also prove that the breach of duty, and not something else, was the direct cause of the injury.

Can I file a civil claim without proof of negligence?

New York laws do provide instances in which proof of negligence is not necessary to file a claim.

No-Fault Laws

No-fault laws allow injured parties to recover compensation without the necessity of proving negligence to claim compensation. These laws allow injured individuals to receive compensation sooner, but they also limit the types and amounts of compensation that is recoverable.

Automobile Accidents

New York is a no-fault state when it comes to auto insurance. This means all drivers in the state of New York must carry no-fault insurance, also known as Personal Injury Protection (PIP), and file against their own insurance when injured in an accident, regardless of fault.

PIP also covers passengers and relatives living in the household. Additionally, drivers with PIP policies are covered when hit as a pedestrian.

Personal injury protection only covers certain economic damages. However, if you meet New York’s threshold for serious injury, you can also file a claim against the other driver’s liability insurance. In this case, you will be required to prove negligence by the other driver in order to establish a case for compensation.

Examples of serious injuries under New York law include the following:

  • Significant disfigurement
  • Bone fractures
  • At least 90 days of disability
  • Loss of bodily functions
  • Permanent organ damage

Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation is also a no-fault system, which allows injured employees to receive medical care and disability benefits without proving negligence by the employer. The advantage is that compensation can be recovered relatively quickly. However, non-economic damages are not available through workers’ compensation.

New York laws protect employers who purchase workers’ compensation insurance from further liability, which means employees cannot sue their employers. However, nothing in the law prevents employees from suing third parties whose negligence caused or contributed to an injury. Examples of third parties that could be liable include the following:

  • Equipment manufacturers
  • Premises owners
  • Contractors

Strict Liability

According to Cornell Law School, strict liability applies when a defendant is liable regardless of intention, without the necessity of proving negligence, such as in the following types of cases:

  • Product liability cases
    • A poorly designed product that injures others can incur liability, even if the manufacturer was not negligent.
  • Animal attacks
    • When a dog designated as a “dangerous dog” causes an injury to a human, farm animal, pet or companion animal, the owner or legal custodian is strictly liable for any resulting medical expenses, regardless of whether negligence is established.
  • Abnormally dangerous activities

Vicarious Liability

Vicarious liability occurs when one party is liable for the negligence of another. In New York, this applies to vehicle ownership and employer/employee relationships.

Vehicle Owners


Vehicle owners who give permission to another to drive their vehicles are liable if the driver injures others through negligence. This can apply to individual owners who loan out their vehicles, businesses that provide company vehicles and commercial motor vehicles owned by trucking companies. In an accident, the driver and the owner are jointly and severally liable.

Employers


Under the doctrine of Respondeat Superior, employers are vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees. Any actions by an individual operating as an employee or agent of another can incur vicarious liability against the employer.

This also applies to the operation of motor vehicles, even when the company does not own the vehicle. If the employee is driving the vehicle to carry out the purposes of the employer, the employer may be liable for the employee’s negligence in an accident. This includes trucking companies.

What is contributory negligence?

Contributory negligence occurs when the injured party is partially at fault for their injuries. New York’s contributory negligence law allows injured individuals to recover compensation for their injuries in proportion to the fault of others. Compensation is diminished by whatever percentage of fault is attributable to the injured party.

Contributory negligence comes into play when the injured individual contributed to the occurrence of the accident or failed to follow reasonable measures to protect their own personal safety, such as failure to wear a seatbelt or motorcycle helmet.

What types of compensation can I recover in cases of negligence?

Even after you establish that the elements of negligence have occurred, damages are only recoverable to the extent that you can prove them. The two primary types of damages are economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are monetary damages that can be proven with documentation. Examples of economic damages include medical expenses and loss of income.

Non-economic damages are subjective damages that must be established by demonstrating the changes in relationships and quality of life before and after the accident and through testimony of the pain and suffering that have resulted. Examples of non-economic damages include pain and suffering, disfigurement and loss of society.

In rare cases where especially egregious conduct by the defendant can be established, punitive damages may be awarded.

Statute of Limitations

New York law limits the amount of time personal injury victims have to file a case, known as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations varies depending on the type of case you file. For this reason, it is crucial to contact an attorney as soon as possible after you are injured to ensure your case is ready to file well ahead of the deadline.

How an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

Proving negligence and determining the amount of compensation that would be fair are complex processes with which an experienced New York personal injury attorney can help. At Meirowitz & Wasserberg, LLP, we represent people, not corporations. We pride ourselves on providing an individualized, dedicated approach to ensure our clients receive maximized compensation.

Our commitment to our clients has yielded remarkable results, with our clients receiving millions of dollars in well-deserved compensation for their injuries. These results have helped our firm build our widely acclaimed local and national reputation for excellence. We are the law firm other lawyers seek out for their deserving clients with the most challenging cases.

We offer a free case evaluation and never charge legal fees until we successfully recover compensation for you. If you have been injured because of someone else’s negligence, you have a limited period of time to file a claim for compensation. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.