In the realm of personal injury law, understanding how fault is determined can be a complex issue. One doctrine that plays a crucial role in this determination is the concept of ‘Negligence Per Se’. This principle may seem intimidating at first, but we’re here to simplify it for you. So, let’s delve into it!
Negligence Per Se is a legal doctrine that helps determine fault in a personal injury case based on violation of statutes or laws. In simple terms, if a person violates a safety law and that violation leads to an injury, the person can be automatically considered negligent, per se (Latin for “in itself”).
To further understand this concept, let’s use an example. Suppose there’s a traffic law that requires drivers to stop at red lights. Now, imagine a driver, John, runs a red light and hits another car, causing injury to its driver, Amy. In this case, because John violated a traffic law designed to prevent accidents, he could be held liable for Amy’s injuries under the concept of Negligence Per Se.
Essentially, with Negligence Per Se, the injured party does not need to prove that the other party was negligent. The fact that a law was violated which resulted in an injury is enough to establish negligence.
Negligence Per Se applies when four conditions are met:
- The defendant violated a statute or ordinance.
- The act caused the kind of harm the statute was designed to prevent.
- The plaintiff is in the class of persons the statute was designed to protect.
- The violation of the statute was the proximate cause of the injury.
Returning to our previous example, John violated a traffic law (condition 1), the accident is the kind of harm traffic laws aim to prevent (condition 2), Amy, as a driver, is protected by traffic laws (condition 3), and John’s violation directly led to Amy’s injury (condition 4). Thus, all four conditions for Negligence Per Se are met and an injury lawyer can argue your case at trial.
Statutes play a pivotal role in Negligence Per Se. These are laws enacted by a legislative body, such as traffic laws, building codes, or health and safety regulations. When a defendant violates these statutes leading to an injury, they can be held liable under Negligence Per Se.
Proponents of Negligence Per Se argue that it promotes adherence to laws and discourages reckless behavior. It simplifies the process of proving negligence and can make it easier for injured parties to seek justice.
However, critics argue that it may unfairly penalize individuals for minor infractions of the law that unexpectedly result in significant damages. Some also contend that it may lead to an increase in frivolous lawsuits, as plaintiffs may try to sue for any minor violation of a statute.
Negligence Per Se is a fundamental concept in personal injury law. By establishing fault through the violation of statutes, it streamlines the process of determining liability. However, like all legal doctrines, its application depends on the specific circumstances of each case. Understanding this doctrine can provide valuable insight into how fault is determined in personal injury cases.