How to Prove Fault: Four Elements of a Successful Negligence Claim

Negligence is the legal basis of most personal injury claims In New York. As defined by the Cornell Law School, negligence is the failure to behave with the level of care that a person of ordinary prudence would have under similar circumstances. Of course, determining what constitutes negligence in a specific case is not always so straightforward. Below, our Buffalo personal injury lawyers provide an overview of the four elements that you need to prove in order to bring a successful negligence claim.

The Four Basic Elements of Negligence

Duty of Care

As a starting point, plaintiffs must establish the relevant standard of care. To hold another party liable for your injuries they must prove that they had a legal obligation to look out for your health, safety, and well-being. In most cases, proving the existence of a duty of care is not especially challenging. For example, business owners owe a duty of care to all customers and permitted guests. Alternatively, motorists owe a duty of care to every other person on or near the road.

Breach of Duty 

Once the standard of care has been established, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant violated their obligations under that standard. In many personal injury claims, this element—breach of duty—is the key element that is in dispute. You cannot bring a successful personal injury claim without proving that the defendant’s actions or inactions were careless or reckless. As all negligence cases are context-specific, a comprehensive investigation is critically important. At Richmond Vona, LLC, our experienced Buffalo personal injury lawyer will help you document the accident and gather the evidence needed to prove a breach of duty.


Proving that the defendant acted in a careless or reckless manner is not sufficient to recover compensation. A plaintiff must establish a causal connection between the negligent conduct and their accident. As an example, imagine that another driver blows through a stop sign in Downtown Buffalo. Five minutes later you get into a crash with this vehicle. Proving that they previously ran the stop sign is not enough to win your case. While the traffic violation is certainly a negligent act, there is no connection between it and your crash.

Actual Harm 

Finally, a plaintiff must prove that they suffered actual harm as a result of the defendant’s negligence. Personal injury claims are primarily compensatory in nature—meaning their purpose is to give the victim a path to compensation. With very few exceptions, New York law only allows injured victims to recover financial relief to the extent that they suffered actual losses. To maximize your settlement or verdict in a New York personal injury claim, you must present evidence proving the full extent of your damages.

Speak to Our Buffalo, NY Personal Injury Lawyer Today

At Richmond Vona, LLC, our New York personal injury attorneys provide aggressive, results-oriented advocacy to injured victims. We will help you prepare and bring a successful negligence claim. For a free, no-obligation consultation, please contact our law firm right away. With an office in Buffalo, we serve communities throughout Western New York, including in Cheektowaga, Orchard Park, Lackawanna, Attica, and Rochester.