A recent car accident in the city of St. Joseph highlights an important piece of personal injury law in the state of Missouri: Negligence per se.
Driver Breaks Law, Causes Car Accident
The incident happened late in the morning on Sunday, July 23, 2017. According to the police reports, a Chevy HHR vehicle was waiting to turn at the intersection of 22nd Street and Messanie Street in downtown St. Joseph. A Buick Park Avenue, however, slammed into the Chevy before it could turn.
A passenger in the Chevy was driven from the scene of the car crash in an ambulance. While initial reports say he only suffered minor injuries, he was also complaining of neck pain, raising the possibility of a whiplash injury.
The driver of the Buick that caused the crash was taken from the scene of the accident in handcuffs. He will face numerous citations, including for license plates, car insurance and driver’s license issues, as well as for careless driving.
Basics of Missouri Personal Injury Law
In Missouri, if you get hurt in a car accident and file a personal injury lawsuit, to get recovery you’ll have to show four things:
- The person you’re suing owed you a duty of care,
- That person breached their duty of care,
- That breach was the cause of your injuries, and
- You suffered legal damages, like a physical injury or a financial loss.
Negligence Per Se Sets the Duty of Care and Shows a Breach
Legally, other people owe you a duty of care to act like a reasonable person whenever it’s foreseeable that you could get hurt. If they act unreasonably or negligently, instead, they’ve breached their duty of care and could be held liable for your injuries. One way to show both that they owed you a duty of care and that they breached it is by proving they violated the law in some way. This is called negligence per se.
Two Special Requirements of Negligence Per Se
However, showing that the person you’re suing broke the law does not completely resolve the issue. Instead, in order to use negligence per se to show they owed you a duty of care and that they breached it, you have to show that the law they broke was designed to both protect people like you, and to prevent the kind of injury you suffered.
This crash in downtown St. Joseph highlights how this works. Missouri’s careless driving statute, Missouri Traffic Code 304.012, requires drivers to “drive the vehicle in a careful and prudent manner and at a rate of speed so as not to endanger the property of another or the life or limb of any person.” This law states the kind of injury it’s designed to prevent – property damage or physical injury caused by a car accident – as well as the people it was designed to protect – “any person.” Therefore, if the victim of the crash can show that the other driver was breaking 304.012, they can use that violation to establish a duty of care and its breach through negligence per se.
However, a violation of Missouri’s statutes dealing with licensing issues might not be sufficient for a negligence per se argument. These licensing laws don’t always expressly state the kinds of injuries they’re designed to prevent and the people they’re supposed to protect. Without that information, it can be an uphill battle to use a violation of these laws as grounds for claiming negligence per se.
St. Joseph Car Accident Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
Being able to prove that the other driver was negligent per se is a huge step in the right direction in a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident. The attorneys at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph know this, and pursue these arguments whenever they can to help their clients. Contact them online or call them at (816) 875-9373 for the legal help you need after a car crash.