What is an Example of Negligence Per Se?

What is an Example of Negligence Per Se?

A very common and easily-understood example of negligence per se is when a speeding driver strikes a pedestrian with his vehicle. By speeding, the driver is breaking a safety-related law designed to protect people like pedestrians from the type of accident that occurred.  

Negligence per se makes it easier for an injured plaintiff to prove their case but it does not automatically decide the case. Los Angeles personal injury lawyers look for instances of negligence per se in order to build the strongest case possible. 

Definition of negligence per se in California 

In California, a plaintiff must prove four things in order to establish negligence per se: 

  • The defendant broke a law or violated a regulation 
  • The violation caused the plaintiff’s injury 
  • The injury was the type of event that the law was designed to prevent 
  • The law was enacted with the intention of protecting people in the same class as the plaintiff 

Negligence per se creates a presumption of duty and a breach of that duty on the part of the defendant. This presumption shifts the burden of proof from the plaintiff to the defendant, which means the defendant must produce evidence to show that he was not negligent and in absence of such evidence, he will lose the case. 

What negligence per se does not do 

Establishing negligence per se does not end all of the questions that a lawsuit needs to answer. It does not conclusively establish liability because a defendant may still be able to meet his burden of showing that he was not negligent. One way to do this is to provide evidence that rebuts the presumption such as by showing that: 

  • A reasonable person under the circumstances would also have violated the law the way the defendant did 
  • The defendant did not and should not have known that he needed to comply with the statute 
  • The defendant was not able to comply with the statute 
  • An emergency prevented the defendant from following the statute 
  • Complying with the statute would have been dangerous 

Negligence per se also does not prove that the plaintiff’s damages were reasonable and related to the negligence. This is still the plaintiff’s burden and without providing such evidence, the plaintiff cannot prevail. 

Other examples of negligence per se 

Negligence per se can arise in many contexts, including: 

  • Building codes – Building codes are adopted to protect certain people – the occupants – from the dangers of unsafe buildings. For example, if a builder violates a code provision designed to prevent the spread of fire and occupants are injured by a fire that would have been contained by following the code, the violation may be negligence per se. 
  • Blood alcohol content limits – Drunk driving laws are intended to protect the public from intoxicated drivers. When someone injured by a drunk driver shows that the driver was convicted of driving with a blood alcohol content above the legal limit, the resulting accident is an example of negligence per se. 
  • Federal laws – Many federal laws create obligations that protect certain groups or even to the public at large. For example, if an emergency room doctor refuses to treat a potential patient, the refusal could run afoul of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act and could constitute negligence per se. 

Negligence per se is not always obvious. Identifying it can require specialized knowledge related to the circumstances of the accident. It is important to discuss a personal injury case with a personal injury lawyer with experience with your type of case. 

Talk to an LA lawyer about your options 

If you have been injured in Southern California, discuss your situation with an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer to find out whether negligence per se plays a part in your case. 

The personal injury attorneys at Ellis Injury Law are dedicated to protecting the rights of those injured because of someone else’s wrongdoing. Call us today to discuss your case for free. We are ready to give you a professional assessment of your claim and we never charge a legal fee up-front; we only get paid if we secure compensation on your behalf.