In a personal injury case, the term “negligence per se” refers to how a defendant’s actions violated a law or regulation. If he or she did, the court will then consider the act negligent without comparing the act against the actions of a reasonable person or the standard duty of care. Sometimes, a judge or jury will only have to ask if there was a statute violated by the defendant at the time of the injury. If so, the courts may grant the plaintiff his or her claim.
Proving Negligence Per Se
The plaintiff cannot cite just any statute and claim that the defendant violated that statute to win the case through negligence per se. Instead, the negligence per se claim is specific to safety statutes, such as traffic laws.
For example, the defendant was speeding in a construction zone. There were signs posted that instructed drivers to lower their speed so that they could avoid an accident with construction workers on the road. The driver struck and seriously injured a worker, because he or she chose to speed, regardless of the signs and law. This would qualify for negligence per se.
To prove negligence per se, the plaintiff’s attorney must:
- Show that the defendant violated a safety statute.
- Prove that the safety statute was designed to protect the public from harm.
- Show that the plaintiff was a member of the group of people whom the statute was designed to protect from harm.
- Establish how the defendant’s actions caused the injury that the statute was aimed at preventing.
Criminal Penalties May Be Involved
Typically, when there is a negligence per se case, there are also criminal charges that have already been resolved or that are still pending against the defendant. In this case, it can help the plaintiff’s case, because showing proof of a traffic citation or guilty verdict establishes that the defendant did in fact violate a safety statute.
There does not have to be a guilty verdict to win a civil case. This is because in criminal court, the case must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil court, it is based on the preponderance of evidence. If the evidence is enough to establish that the defendant violated the statute, he or she could be found guilty of negligence.
The Limitations of Negligence Per Se
There are vast limitations to negligence per se claims, and defendants may be able to use a viable defense strategy to avoid being found guilty. Some common (and legitimate) excuses used in these types of claims include:
- The defendant was incapacitated and did not know that he or she was violating a statute;
- The defendant was unaware that he or she was required to comply with a statute;
- The defendant had no way to comply even when he or she used reasonable care;
- Compliance would have resulted in more injuries.
Injured By a Negligent Driver? It is Best To Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
Negligence per se is much more complicated than meets the eye. If you have been injured by a driver due to a violation of a safety statute, you still need professional representation to present your claim to the court. Contact The Law Offices of B. Clarke Nash, P.C. today to explore your options. Schedule a consultation at 912-200-5292 or ask a question online.