Being Compensated: Three Essential Elements of Negligence Per Se

Written by Christi Hayes and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

If you are injured in an accident, the medical bills, lost wages and other losses you suffer might give you the right to sue the party responsible whose negligent conduct caused it to happen. An attorney representing you would have to gather evidence to present in court to prove that the other person breached a duty owed to you to act in manner than would not cause injury to you or to others. The task of proving negligence is made easier by the principle of negligence per se.

Negligence per se makes it easier to recover damages in cases in which the other party violated a law. For instance, if you are injured when your vehicle is struck by a car driven by a motorist who failed to obey a stop sign before entering the intersection, the violation of the law, the failure to come to a full stop at the sign, might be sufficient to prove negligence.

By making it easier to prove that another person is negligent without having to provide eyewitnesses or other evidence to prove the conduct that you and your lawyer claim caused the accident, negligence per se can be an effective method for obtaining the compensation you believe you deserve. There are three elements that must exist for a judge to allow jurors to rely upon the principle of negligence per se.

Element One: Defendant violated the law

Per se is derived from Latin and means "by itself," negligence per se is the violation of a law by the defendant that results in injuries. Proving the violation is relatively easy because police will have either arrested or ticket the defendant. For example, a motorist who operates a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is usually arrested at the scene of an accident making it easy to prove a violation of the law.

Element 2: The law was intended to protect the public

This second element of negligence per se is also relatively easy to prove. You must establish that the purpose of the law was to protect members of the public from bodily harm. Most laws, such as those prohibiting driving under the influence and failing to obey red lights or stop signs, are obvious in their intended purpose.

Element 3: The violation of the law was the proximate cause of your injuries

The violation of the law must have been the primary factor in causing the accident that resulted in the injuries you suffered. Proving that a motorist was intoxicated at the time of an accident may not prove negligence per se depending upon the facts of the case. For instance, if a vehicle was stopped at a red light when your car smashed into it and suffered injuries when your face hit your steering wheel, the fact that the other driver was arrested for driving under the influence would not establish negligence per se. The facts do not support the conclusion that the violation of the DUI laws caused the accident.

If you have been injured in an accident, an attorney familiar with the negligence and negligence per so laws might be of assistance to you. At the very least, an attorney could review the facts of the accident to determine if you are entitled to compensation.

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