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Personal Injury Lawyer

Negligence per se is an alternative way of proving negligence compared to the traditional duty, breach, causation, damages method. The traditional method of proving negligence can be challenging at times as it requires the plaintiff prove the previously identified factors which include both actual and proximate cause. The idea is that the negligence per se method may make it easier for a victim to recover damages. Not all states recognize a negligence per se action, so be sure to check if your jurisdiction does. A local personal injury lawyer will also be able to give you information regarding negligence per se in your jurisdiction.

In order to establish negligence per se, a plaintiff must show: (1) that the defendant violated a statute; (2) that the purpose of the statute was to prevent the injury at issue; and (3) that the injured person is within the class of people the law intended to protect. While the first two elements are straightforward, there can be some confusion on the class element. Often, the class of people just means the public as a whole, but it could be more specific depending on the statute. For example, a statute aimed at physicians is likely aimed only at patients. It is important to note that a violation of a statute is not enough to satisfy the negligence per se standard unless the other elements are met. 

Possible defenses to a negligence per se claim if established could include: the defendant’s incapacity, the defendant neither knew nor should have known of the reason for compliance, the defendant was unable to comply even with reasonable diligence or care, or the defendant was confronted by an emergency that he did not cause. 

A good example of negligence per se would be if an individual runs a stop sign and collides with another vehicle that is lawfully in the intersection. The law requiring that cars yield at stop signs was designed to prevent collisions. The driver clearly violated the statute by not yielding at the stop sign. Finally, other drivers are exactly who the statute intended to protect. Here the driver would guilty of negligence under a theory of negligence per se. 

In contrast, if a truck driver runs a stop sign, and while in the intersection, an item falls out of the truck bed and injures a pedestrian, this would not be negligence per se. The statute here was not intended to protect individuals from a falling object, rather it was intended to prevent collisions at the intersection. 

To learn more about negligence per se and whether it applies to your case, you should contact Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC today to schedule a free consultation with our lawyers.