Negligence Per Se In Personal Injury Cases

For a personal injury claim based on negligence, the plaintiff has to prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care, breached the duty, and the breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries. However, there is another form of negligence — negligence per se where the plaintiff doesn't have to prove all that. Below is an overview of negligence per se.

Meaning and Proof

Negligence per se is legalspeak for automatic negligence. For negligence per se, you don't need to prove that the defendant's actions were negligent. Instead, you only need to prove the following:

  • The defendant violated a regulation or statute
  • The violation calls for a criminal penalty
  • The violation caused an injury that the regulation or statute was meant to prevent
  • You belong to the class that the regulation or statute protects

The exact wording of these elements may vary by state, but they all lead up to the same meaning. Once you have proven the above, you will be able to collect injury damages from the defendant.

An Example

Many states have laws meant to protect school children in school zones (specific areas around schools). For example, special speed limits apply around school zones, driving under the influence (DUI) in school zones attract aggravated charges and penalties, and it is illegal to pass a stopped school bus.

These rules are in place to protect kids who are more vulnerable to auto accidents, especially around school zones, due to their immaturity. Therefore, if a driver overtakes a stopped bus in a school zone, and hits a child, the driver is liable for negligence per se. In such a case, the child (through the parent, lawyer, or legal guardian) only needs to prove that the driver overtook a stopped bus and hit a child. That would give the child the leeway to hold the driver liable for their damages. The child doesn't have to prove that the driver was negligent while overtaking the stopped bus.

The Limitations

Note that negligence per se is not the same as an automatic liability. There are still defenses that the defendant can use to avoid liability and compensation. For example, an incapacitated defendant (say a driver having a heart attack) may use their incapacity to avoid liability. A defendant who was unable to comply with the regulation, say a driver who had lost control of their car, can also use that as a defense. Thus, as an injury victim, you still need a personal injury lawyer to use negligence per se in pursuit of injury damages.

For more information, contact companies such as Carter & Fulton, P.S.