Negligence and Standards of Care

When people are injured or harmed, a question that is frequently asked of a personal injury or medical malpractice lawyer is, “was there negligence” or “what is negligence”?

Negligence is a failure to use that degree of care that a reasonably prudent person would have used under the same circumstances.

Ordinary care is the level of care that the normally careful person uses in situations with a given level of danger.

Negligence is NOT what ordinary people do. Negligence is what ordinarily a reasonably prudent person would do.  Reasonably prudent people never unnecessarily expose others to needless harm.

A normally careful person or company – an ordinarily careful person or company – does not allow needless danger.

Safety is always prudent.  Making the safest choice is prudent.  Not doing something the safest way is choosing to unnecessarily expose others to needless harm.

Needlessly exposing others to unnecessary harm is negligence.

This is also known as the “Standard of Care”.

Long ago Judge Learned Hand, one of the smartest judges ever to live in the US, put it this way:

The required level of care is that which helps keep the community safe, not merely that which the average person might want to exercise.  United States v. Carroll Towing Co., 59 F.2d 169 (2d Cir. 1947).

The best way to think of negligence and the standard of care is “The Golden Rule” – treat others how you want to be treated.

Causation of Harm

In order to have a personal injury from an accident or malpractice compensated, the negligence must be a proximate cause of harm.  What does this mean?

An act or omission is a cause of an injury or occurrence if it was a substantial factor in bringing it about.  There may be more than one cause of an injury or occurrence, and a cause is substantial even if a relatively small percentage is assigned to it, as long as it is not trivial or slight.

In other words, the negligence does not have to be the cause or the sole cause of injury in order to a proximate cause or a substantial factor in causing harm in order for the defendant to be liable for the occurrence.

Burden of Proof

What proof is necessary to win a claim?

The burden of proof in a civil case is on the party making the claim.  So a plaintiff must offer evidence that shows it is more likely than not that the defendant used less than reasonable care and that this negligence was a substantial factor in causing harm.

We call this the preponderance of the evidence.  When the fair preponderance of the credible evidence, meaning the testimony or exhibits that are worthy of belief, tilts the scales of justice ever so slightly in favor of the plaintiff on any issue, the plaintiff wins this issue.

Preponderance means the greater part of the evidence; it does NOT mean the greater number of witnesses or time spent.  The evidence that supports the plaintiff’s claims must appeal to the jury as more nearly representing what happened than the evidence opposed to it.

It does not matter if a jury has doubts or even reasonable doubts; if the evidence shows that more likely than not the plaintiff, the injured party is right, then the plaintiff wins.

Bronx Personal Injury Lawyers

At Sonin & Genis, we believe that a negligent defendant should be held liable and responsible for all of the harms and losses it needlessly causes, and it should not be allowed to evade and avoid its obligations and pass the buck and make the rest of our community pay the costs of its negligence.

When you or a loved one is harmed in an accident or by medical malpractice, you need a skilled and experienced lawyer that knows and understands the law and how to prove your case.  The lawyers at Sonin & Genis have the resources to prove your case and obtain full and just compensation for all of the harms and losses sustained: the pain and suffering – the loss of self-respect, dignity, independence, and the humiliation and embarrassment that accompanies injury, as well as the loss income and bills to pay for all care that should be given.

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