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Legal Definitions Related to NYC Personal Injury Claims

The process of filing a personal injury claim in New York can be somewhat difficult to follow, especially if you have never filed or have been involved in a personal injury claim before. Moreover, the legal terms associated with personal injury claims can be hard to understand for injury victims and their families.

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The process of filing a personal injury claim in New York can be somewhat difficult to follow, especially if you have never filed or have been involved in a personal injury claim before. Moreover, the legal terms associated with personal injury claims can be hard to understand for injury victims and their families.

In this post, we have defined the most important legal terms associated with personal injury claims so that you can understand the process of filing a claim and recovering damages from the at-fault party.


The plaintiff is the person who files a tort claim (also known as a personal injury claim or a civil lawsuit) against another person or entity in order to get compensation for their injuries and/or monetary losses.


The defendant is the person or entity against whom the claim is filed.


It is defined as the failure of a person to exercise a level of care that a reasonably competent and prudent person would have exercised under similar circumstances.


It is defined as the state of being responsible for the injuries or losses caused to a person. If a person is deemed liable in a personal injury claim, it means that they can be held financially responsible for the plaintiff’s losses.

The concept of liability is based on the principle that under any given situation, people have certain responsibilities and are expected to conduct themselves in such a way that their actions (or failure to act) do not harm others.

It is undoubtedly the most important aspect of an NYC personal injury claim, as the plaintiff can recover damages only if they manage to establish the liability of the defendant.

Vicarious Liability

It is a legal doctrine under which a party with supervisory authority can be held liable for the actions of their subordinates – if it is found that the former had the right, duty, and ability to control the actions of the latter, but failed to do so. It’s generally applicable in commercial truck accident claims, where the truck company can be held liable for the driver’s actions.

For instance, if a truck driver is forced to drive for more than 14 hours by the trucking company – in violation of hours of service rules – and if the driver causes an accident as a result of fatigue, the trucking company can be held liable, since the accident could have been prevented if the trucking company had not overworked the driver.

Proximate Cause

It is the event or the actions of a party without which the plaintiff would not have been injured. It is commonly referred to as the ‘but for’ rule. If the accident would not have happened and if the plaintiff would not have been injured, but for the actions of the defendant, the defendant’s actions (or failure to act, depending on the circumstances) can be considered the proximate cause for the accident.

It should be noted that proximate cause need not necessarily be the only cause of the accident. Under New York personal injury law, a defendant’s actions can be considered the proximate cause if they substantially contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries.

For example, if Driver A is rear-ended by Driver B, and if Driver A crashes into a tree and suffers injuries as a result, Driver B’s actions can be considered the proximate cause, even though Driver A was injured as a result of crashing into the tree. This is because it is reasonable to assume that Driver A would not have crashed into the tree but for the actions of Driver B.

Compensatory Damages

It refers to the amount of compensation given to the plaintiff in an NYC personal injury claim. It generally covers the economic as well as non-economic losses caused to the plaintiff as a result of the accident.

Common economic losses that a plaintiff can be compensated for include:

  • Cost of medical treatment
  • Cost of rehabilitation
  • Cost of long-term care (if the injury leads to a physical or cognitive disability)
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Property damage

Common non-economic losses that a plaintiff can be compensated for include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional anguish
  • Significant disfigurement
  • Diminished quality of life

Compensatory damages are awarded for the purpose of restoring the plaintiff (to the extent possible) to the position they would have been in, had it not been for the accident. Under New York law, there is no cap on the number of compensatory damages that can be awarded to a plaintiff in a tort claim. The more severe the injuries, the larger the compensation is likely to be.

It should be noted that compensatory damages are not awarded based on speculations. The plaintiff has a duty to explain (with evidence) how much they have lost and stand to lose in the future due to their injuries.

Only an experienced New York personal injury attorney can accurately determine the value of a claim, collect the evidence needed to prove the extent of economic and non-economic losses suffered by the plaintiff, and recover an appropriate amount of damages. This is why personal injury victims are generally advised to get legal representation as soon as they can after the accident.

Punitive Damages

It refers to the damages awarded to the plaintiff in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages are only awarded under rare circumstances, which include:

  • If the defendant is found to have acted with malicious intent and if their actions resulted in serious, life-altering injuries for the plaintiff
  • If the defendant is found to have acted with utter disregard for the plaintiff’s health and safety

It should be noted that, unlike compensatory damages, a plaintiff is not entitled to receive punitive damages. Only the jury or judge can decide whether punitive damages should be awarded to the plaintiff and the amount of compensation to be awarded.

Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are not meant to compensate the plaintiff for their injuries and other losses. Instead, they are awarded for the explicit purpose of punishing the defendant for their utterly reckless or malicious actions and to make sure they do not make the same mistakes again.

Comparative Negligence

It is a legal concept under which the plaintiff can also be held partially responsible for the accident in which they were injured or suffered monetary losses. Under New York personal injury law, the plaintiff’s compensation will be reduced based on the extent to which they were responsible for the accident.

For instance, if it is deemed that a plaintiff was 30% at fault for the accident, and if they are awarded a sum of $100,000, they will only receive $70,000. This is pretty logical, right?

Statute of Limitations

It is the deadline within which the plaintiff is required to file a claim against the defendant. The statute of limitations for filing an NYC personal injury claim – except medical malpractice claims – is three years – starting from the date on which the accident happened. For medical malpractice claims, the statute of limitations is two years and six months from the date on which the plaintiff was injured or harmed.


It is one of the steps involved in a New York personal injury case. It is a process through which both the parties (the plaintiff and the defendant) can exchange case-related information with each other. It is done to make sure one party does not blindside or ambush the other party at the trial by producing a surprise witness or documentary evidence that the other party is not aware of.


It is the process through which the plaintiff and the defendant can settle their case out of court and avoid a lengthy and expensive legal battle. During settlement negotiations, the plaintiff is usually represented by their New York personal injury attorney, and the defendant is represented by the insurance advisor assigned by their insurance provider.

If the plaintiff’s attorney and the insurance adjuster manage to reach an agreement, the case will be settled out of court. The plaintiff will accept the settlement amount offered by the insurance company and in return give up their right to sue the defendant.

If, on the other hand, they do not manage to reach an agreement, the case will proceed to trial.


It is the official decision made by the jury or the judge in a New York personal injury case. It usually specifies the following things.

  • Whether the defendant is liable for the injuries and other losses suffered by the plaintiff
  • Whether the plaintiff’s own actions contributed to the accident
  • The amount of compensation that must be paid to the plaintiff
  • The number of punitive damages that must be paid to the plaintiff (if awarded by the jury or the judge)

Looking to File a New York Personal Injury Claim? We Can Help You!

At Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP, we are committed to helping personal injury victims get the compensatory damages (and punitive damages, if applicable) they deserve. Over the last 98 years, we have successfully handled a large number of personal injury claims and have recovered over a billion dollars in damages for our clients.

We have the expertise, resources, and connections needed to take up all kinds of personal injury cases – regardless of how complicated they might be. To discuss your case with one of our experienced New York personal injury lawyers, call Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP today at 212-344-1000 or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation.

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Aisha Neri
Aisha Neri
20:29 18 May 23
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