What is Negligence Per Se vs. Negligence?

Evidence of negligence is a key component of all personal injury cases. Without proof of negligence, the victim of an auto accident or slip and fall simply cannot recover for their injuries or property damage. However, proving negligence after a personal injury accident can be tricky. So, this is where negligence per se comes into play.

Negligence per se creates what's known as a “legal shortcut,” making it easier for accident victims to recover compensation for their pain and suffering. But what is negligence per se and how can an injury victim prove it in a court of law? Discover how a negligence lawyer in South Florida can help prove negligence per se.

What is Negligence Per Se vs. Negligence?

What is Negligence Per Se?

Though negligence per se sounds nearly identical to plain old negligence, the two are completely different legal theories. Negligence per se is the presumption of negligence due to the defendant, or at-fault individual, breaking a law. In particular, negligence per se focuses on the violation of public safety statutes.

These statutes have been put in place to ensure the safety and health of the public, protect personal property, and maintain public tranquillity. They're meant to prohibit behavior that could be considered threatening or disruptive to the general community. When public safety statutes are broken, innocent bystanders can be injured as a result.

There can be evidence of negligence per se if:

  • The defendant violated a public safety statute
  • The plaintiff, or injured party, was a member of the public the statute was meant to protect
  • The plaintiff's injuries include those the statute was intended to prevent
  • The defendant's violation of the public safety statute directly caused the plaintiff's injuries

To determine if negligence per se may be applicable in your personal injury case, take a look at some of the most common examples of per se in action in Florida.

Common Examples of Negligence Per Se in Personal Injury Law

In the state of Florida, some of the most common examples of negligence per se include excessive speeding and failing to prevent a dog from biting someone. However, there are several additional examples that occur each and every day in the Sunshine State.

Common examples of negligence per se in Florida include:

  1. When a motorist drives through a red light and hits another vehicle
  2. When a driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit strikes a pedestrian
  3. When a truck driver exceeds legal driving hours and causes a fatigue-induced crash
  4. When a product isn't manufactured according to state or federal guidelines and injures a consumer
  5. When a building is not built or repaired to code and a visitor is injured as a result

In all of the above incidents, negligence is typically assumed because the defendant broke the law — something that a reasonable person would not do. To better understand how a court of law defines negligence, just keep reading.

The Difference Between Negligence And Negligence Per Se

In the state of Florida, negligence is defined as “the failure to use reasonable care, which is the care that a reasonably careful person would use under similar circumstances.” In other words, it means doing something that a typical person would not do under normal circumstances or failing to do something that a typical person would do under normal circumstances.

For instance, a careful person would make a full stop at a traffic light, whereas someone who fails to use reasonable care might break the law and drive straight through the light. However, proving whether or not a defendant was negligent isn't always as cut-and-dry as determining whether or not they broke a law — like it is with negligence per se.

Rather, determining if a person was negligent typically requires what's known as a burden of proof, which can require an in-depth investigation, eyewitness testimony, and other forms of evidence. Take a look at how a personal injury attorney would prove negligence in a court of law.

How Do You Prove Negligence?

Proving negligence is a bit more complicated than proving negligence per se. To establish proof of negligence in a court of law, there are four main elements a personal injury attorney must prove.

  1. The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
  2. The defendant breached the duty of care.
  3. The plaintiff suffered an injury.
  4. The defendant's breach of their duty of care caused the plaintiff's injury.

For instance, drivers owe a duty of care to motorcyclists to peacefully share the road. A driver would breach this duty of care if they failed to yield to a motorcyclist, causing an accident. If the motorcyclist suffered an injury from the impact of the accident, such as a traumatic brain injury, the driver who failed to peacefully share the road can be found negligent.

To prove the driver was negligent in a court of law, a personal injury attorney will need to prove that another reasonable individual in a similar situation would have done something different than the defendant. Continuing with the motorcycle accident example, an attorney may interview professionals or eyewitnesses to prove that the driver should have yielded for the motorcyclist. If the court agrees the defendant broke their duty of care, they can be found negligent.

How Do You Prove Negligence Per Se?

Negligence per se is often referred to as a “legal shortcut,” and for good reason. It often takes less work to prove negligence per se than typical negligence cases. This is because negligence per se eliminates the need for an attorney to prove whether or not the defendant was reasonable in their actions. A reasonable person would not break the law, thus the actions of the defendant are typically automatically considered negligent.

However, just because negligence per se requires a lesser burden of proof, doesn't mean that an injury settlement is guaranteed. Instead, a judge or jury must still decide whether the defendant's negligence caused the accident. For instance, a driver can run a red light and technically break the law. But if the car they were to hit was making an illegal U-turn, the situation becomes a lot more complex.

So, while the “negligence” part of negligence per se is typically cleared away quickly, there is still a need to prove that the negligence caused the accident — and with it, the plaintiff's accident injuries. This is where the knowledge of a trusted negligence lawyer near me can help.

How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help?

Since negligence is presumed in negligence per se cases, it's often easier for plaintiffs to recover the damages from their personal injury cases. Even more, in situations where defendants were grossly negligent, plaintiffs may be eligible for punitive damages. Punitive damages are a type of personal injury damages awarded to victims when the wrongful behavior was outrageously reprehensible, such as in cases of medical malpractice or improper manufacturing.

To help prove negligence per se, and establish that the defendant's negligence was the cause of a plaintiff's injuries, a personal injury attorney will:

  • Leverage expert testimony to highlight the defendant's negligence
  • Interview eyewitnesses of the accident to determine if they view the person at fault as negligent
  • Seek testimony of a subject matter expert to reconstruct the accident details and highlight how the negligence directly contributed to a victim's injuries

Seek the Guidance of a Trusted Negligence Lawyer

Both in negligence and negligence per se lawsuits, proving liability can be quite the undertaking. Despite negligence per se being a “legal shortcut,” there is still a massive amount of work necessary to successfully recoup damages incurred from medical bills, lost wages, and more. Representation from a skilled negligence attorney can make the process dramatically easier for injured victims.

If you've been injured due to the wrongdoing of another person, contact our South Florida negligence attorneys for a free case evaluation. Together, we can walk through the details of your case, determine if negligence per se may be a possibility, and embark on the best chances of recovering your damages. Call 888-626-1108 to speak to a member of the Weinstein Legal team today.

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