Negligence per se is a way of proving fault in a personal injury claim. If someone was violating a law when they hurt you, like if they were breaking a traffic law and caused a car accident, that violation can be used to prove that they were being negligent. This can establish liability and make them pay for your losses.
Unlawful Conduct Amounts to Per Se Negligence
Every state has a long list of rules for the road. They are generally so well understood that people forget there are laws for them, covering things like the speed limit, driving on the right side of the road or crossing the center line, and how to use the center turn lane.
Drivers who violate these laws and cause an accident in doing so are presumed to be negligent and at-fault for the crash. The idea is that they would have been following the law if they were not being negligent. The violation itself is extremely strong evidence of the driver’s negligence.
For example, Missouri Statute 304.015(3) forbids driving the wrong way on a divided highway. A driver who gets on the highway and drives south in the northbound lane and causes a truck accident would violate this law. That violation is such a strong indication of their negligence that it can amount of per se negligence.
How Negligence Per Se Fits Into Personal Injury Claims
When you get hurt in an accident and someone else was to blame, you have to prove four things by a preponderance of the evidence in order to recover financial compensation:
- The other person owed you a duty of care,
- That person breached their duty of care,
- That breach caused your injuries, and
- Those injuries entitle you to the compensation you are demanding.
Negligence per se both sets the duty of care you are owed and establishes that it was breached. Everyone has a legal duty of care to follow the law. Negligence per se is the doctrine that breaking the law and hurting someone in the process is sufficient proof of negligence to move the case forward to causation.
The Law Must Exist to Protect People in Your Position from the Injury You Suffered
However, not all legal violations will lead to a finding of per se negligence. The law being violated has to exist to protect people like you from the types of injuries that you sustained.
For example, Missouri Statute 304.016 lays out the rules for how drivers can pass each other. The goal is to protect the drivers involved in the pass and other drivers on the roadway from a car crash. Failing to comply with those rules and causing a crash can amount to negligence per se.
However, the violation of other statutes, like Missouri’s laws governing vehicle registration, are unlikely to support a finding of negligence per se because they are not meant to protect certain people from specific types of accidents and injuries.
Personal Injury Lawyers at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph
If you have been hurt in a car accident, a finding that the other driver was negligent per se makes your case much easier to win. The personal injury lawyers at the Smith Law Office frequently use this legal doctrine to help their clients. Call them at (816) 875-9373 or contact them online.