Negligence Per Se in Car Accident

Negligence Per Se in Car Accident

Abasi Major
February 23, 2023

In the event of a car accident, fault needs to be determined in order to identify who among the parties is liable to pay the other damages. When assessing who is at fault, courts look at various elements and liability doctrines, one of which is negligence per se.

What Does Negligence Per Se Mean?

Negligence per se is a liability doctrine used in personal injury cases. It refers to an act that is negligent simply because it violates a law designed to protect people, which results in injury or harm to another. 

When someone is deemed negligent per se in a car accident claim, there is no longer a need to prove that they breached their duty of care. Upon showing that they violated a traffic or moving law, they are negligent per se and immediately at fault – and hence, are liable for damages. 

Examples of Negligence Per Se in a Car Accident 

A party in a car crash is negligent per se if they violated a law designed to protect against the damages that they caused. Some examples of acts of negligence per se include: 

  • Counterflowing 
  • Driving under the influence 
  • Failure to observe traffic signs and signals 
  • Failure to use turn signals 
  • Speeding
  • Tailgating
  • Violation of state or federal traffic regulations 

How to Prove Negligence Per Se 

All car accident cases require a party to prove that the other was negligent, and hence liable for damages. Generally, negligence is established by meeting the following elements: 

  • The at-fault driver has a duty to keep other drivers or pedestrians safe.
  • The driver breached that duty.
  • The breach resulted in injuries or damages.

However, if negligence per se is argued, it’s no longer necessary to prove a breach of duty. Their negligence is already presumed, and to prove it, the other party needs to establish with sufficient evidence that a law was violated, resulting in the crash. 

Specifically, the driver making the claim must prove that the following elements are present: 

  • A law designed to protect people was violated.
  • The party filing the claim belongs to the class of people the law was designed to protect.
  • The resulting injury is the same type of harm the law was designed to prevent.
  • The violation of the law was the proximate cause of the injury. 

Proximate Cause 

The final element talks about the concept of proximate cause. In a car accident, this means that the negligent act is sufficiently related to the injury or damage for it to be deemed the cause of the injury. If the at-fault driver’s negligent act was not the proximate cause, then they are not liable for damages. 

Proving Damages 

In addition to proving that a party was negligent per se, the driver making the claim must also prove their damages, i.e. exactly how much they are entitled to. Damages in car accident claims include: 

  • Actual or economic damages, such as medical expenses, property damage, and lost wages. 
  • Non-economic damages, such as psychological harm or pain and suffering. 
  • Punitive damages, which are intended to punish the at-fault driver for their negligence. 

To minimize the cashout, insurance companies will work hard to dispute the amount they need to pay on behalf of the insured at-fault driver. Hence, it’s important to work with a car accident attorney who can build a solid case to prove both negligence per se and the damages that you suffered.

Reach Out to a Car Accident Attorney 

The process of proving negligence per se and yielding the most favorable outcome in a car accident case can be complex. If you or anyone you know has been involved in a car accident, it’s important that you speak to an attorney who can guide you through the process and ensure that you receive what you’re entitled to.

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