When an action is deemed negligence per se it means that the person who committed the act violated a statute, or law, that was meant to provide a certain level of safety for a class of individuals. For example, traffic laws are meant to protect drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians.
A person may be liable for your damages if you can prove his or her actions are negligence per se in some injury claims. However, there are several factors you should also understand when it comes to these types of cases. Below, we discuss how negligence per se differs from ordinary negligence and how it may affect the legal process.
If you were injured in an accident that was someone else’s fault, you should strongly consider speaking to our Fort Worth-area personal injury lawyers to learn more about your legal options. The consultation is free and there are no upfront fees.
How Does Negligence Per Se Differ From Negligence?
Negligence per se and negligence have many similarities but ultimately differ in some of their elements. Specifically, how they relate to court proceedings in an injury case.
The elements of ordinary negligence are as follows:
- A duty of care exists
- There is a breach of that duty
- Due to the breach of duty a person suffers damages
- The damages are a direct cause of the breach of duty
Ordinary negligence simply means someone failed to act in a reasonable manner that would have prevented an accident and injuries to others.
In a negligence per se case, the elements are more elaborate, with the focus being on the type of law that was violated. The elements are:
- A code, regulation, or statute was violated
- The law was meant to protect a certain type of person (driver, pedestrian, patron, etc.)
- Types of damages experienced was what the law intended to prevent
- Fines or other types of punishment exist to deter the action that would cause harm
- Statute clearly establishes what type of conduct should be avoided to cause harm
For a court to approve a negligence per se case to move forward, your attorney must explicitly determine that you are the class of person a statute was meant to protect, and that the liable party’s violation of that law caused you damages.
What Are Common Examples of Negligence Per Se in an Accident Case?
Determining what can be considered negligence per se may be complicated, so it may be best to let an attorney handle the complexities of the legal system on your behalf. Especially while you focus on getting medical treatment to recover from your injuries.
However, there are some common examples of cases that may be classified as negligence per se, such as the following:
- Car crashes caused by drunk drivers
- Slip and fall accidents due to failure from an establishment to post wet floor signs
- Defective products injuries due to manufacturers failing to adhere to industry regulations
One instance when you may conclude negligence per se applies, but it may not always, is in a hit and run case. While remaining at the scene of the accident is required by law, a driver leaving the scene of the crash may not be the direct cause of your damages. Especially in cases when the accident victim is not incapacitated and may seek help on his or her own.
What Are the Limitations of Negligence Per Se?
There are some limits when it comes to whether a liable party can be found guilty of negligence per se. Negligence per se only applies to a case when the specific statute or regulation is intended to protect a certain type of individual or class of individuals from certain injuries.
For example, regulations related to the safety of construction workers on a job site. If the employer fails to meet those standards and a worker is hurt, then the employer may be guilty of negligence per se. However, if someone who was not authorized to be on site is the one injured, then the doctrine may not apply to the case. Instead, the case would focus on whether ordinary negligence applies.
How is Negligence Per Se Proven?
Before your attorney can build a negligence per se case for a jury, he or she must provide evidence to the court that the case should be considered under the doctrine. This is generally done by establishing that all elements of negligence per se exist in the case. This can be helpful if the definition of what a “reasonable person” is in the situation is difficult to determine under ordinary negligence.
Proving that the liable party broke a specific law or ordinance is key to establishing negligence per se. The type of accident may determine how this is done. For example, in a drunk driving accident you may be able to show the at-fault driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash by providing a copy of a police report that validates your claim. In a slip and fall case at a grocery store you may be able to show surveillance video of your accident where there were no warning signs alerting the public to the slippery floor.
It is not just enough to prove the at-fault party broke the law, but you must also prove that his or her violation of the rules directly caused your damages. This element of a negligence per se case is similar to the ordinary negligence element of causation.
Lastly, you must establish that there was no justification for the violation of the law. Although it may be rare to find a case when someone is justified in breaking the law, there may be some instances. For example, someone experiencing a medical emergency that causes him or her to violate a traffic law.
Contact a Knowledgeable Fort Worth Attorney Today
Cases involving the doctrine of negligence per se can be extremely difficult to build and prove in a courtroom or the insurance company. Let our attorneys handle the legal process on your behalf.
Our lawyers have over 50 years of combined experience and are prepared to fight for maximum compensation for you.
Call (817) 920-9000 to get started.