Elements of a Tort – Duty
The first element to be proven in a negligence claim involving personal injury or wrongful death is the existence of a duty owed to the plaintiff by the defendant. It can be said that everybody owes a duty to everyone else to act with reasonable care. This duty would include driving with care and not causing an automobile or truck accident, for instance.
Although courts apply this one standard, its interpretation varies from case to case, and it is most often up to the jury to decide whether a defendant’s conduct in a particular case met or failed to meet the applicable standard. Also, depending upon the type of accident, the standard can differ from case to case. See below for a description of how the standard of care or duty owed can depend upon the type of case involved.
Historically, property owners owed a different duty to people on their land depending upon whether they were invitees, licensees, or trespassers. Modern law has mostly done away with these distinctions. Property owners in general are under a duty to exercise reasonable care in regards to all people who come onto their property. This duty generally includes the responsibility to inspect and maintain the property in a safe condition. If hazards are identified, the owner should fix them promptly or place a warning of the danger until it is fixed.
When a premises liability case involves negligent security on public property, such as when a person is assaulted in a public park, courts have required that the city must owe some “special duty” to the injured person in order to be liable.
When a person is injured by a dog bite, the dog’s owner is strictly liable for the medical costs, meaning that the injured plaintiff does not have to prove that the owner was negligent in order to recover compensation. To obtain other compensation, such as for pain and suffering or even punitive damages, New York gives the dog “one free bite,” meaning the owner is not liable for these additional damages unless it can be proven the owner already knew or should have known about the animal’s vicious or dangerous propensities before the attack occurred.
The standard of care applied to doctors and other healthcare professionals is somewhat different than the exercise of ordinary care expected of the common person. Doctors in medical malpractice cases are held to a standard of other doctors, meaning what one would reasonably expect from a person of similar education and training practicing in the same geographic area and medical specialty, if applicable.
Product manufacturers are often held to a strict liability standard, holding them strictly liable when a product defect injures the product’s user. The injured party in these cases is not required to show that the product maker was negligent, but only that it allowed a defective product to leave the factory which later injured the user. Likewise, it is largely irrelevant for the defendant to offer evidence of the care it took or lack of negligence in its defense.
In many jurisdictions common carriers such as city buses owe a higher duty of care to their passengers than they do to the general public, but that is not the case in New York under current law. Whether you are a passenger who falls when the bus makes a sudden jolt while riding, entering or exiting, or if you are a motorist, cyclist or pedestrian struck by a bus, you must be able to prove that the driver violated a duty of ordinary, reasonable care.
Experienced New York City Personal Injury Attorney
The distinctions among the duty of care continue to extend to other types of injuries and accidents, including nursing home abuse and neglect or civil rights abuses such as police brutality or excessive force. Regardless of the injury you have received, New York City personal injury attorney Leandros Vrionedes can help you recover compensation for your injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured by the negligence of another, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. for a free consultation.