When you sue someone for a personal injury, the legal theory of the case is often negligence. Negligence is a broad term—it can include anything from products liability cases to medical malpractice, since people can act negligently in a number of different ways and industries.
You might have heard about “negligence per se” and wondered how that’s different from a general negligence case. “Per se” means “intrinsically.” In the legal field, it’s used to describe cases where the negligent entity violated a law during the negligent act.
Here’s a quick guide to negligence vs. negligence per se, and how it could affect your personal injury case.
Negligence has four elements:
- Duty: The defendant had a duty to meet a certain standard of care. This element can include different standards, depending on the defendant. They’re held to what a “reasonable person,” “reasonable medical professional” or even “reasonable architect” would do in the same or similar situation. The duty element changes based on the circumstances of the case, but the question is: would a person of similar knowledge, skills and education act in the same manner as the defendant?
- Breach: A breach occurs when a defendant does not meet the standard of care.
- Causation: Any harm that occurs must be a result of the defendant’s breach.
- Damages: Finally, the harm that occurred must have caused actual damages—a “near miss” isn’t sufficient.
All of these elements must be proven in order to succeed on a negligence claim.
Negligence per se
Negligence per se can be part of a personal injury claim. If a defendant violates a law meant to prevent that type of harm during their negligent act—like driving drunk—and that indeed causes harm to the plaintiff, it makes it easier to prove that the defendant breached their duty of care.
For example, if a defendant caused a regular car accident, you’d need to find evidence that it was their fault, such as eyewitness testimony. If they were subsequently arrested for driving drunk, however, it would be a case of negligence per se. The driver was breaking the law when the accident occurred. Drunk driving laws exist to protect people from being harmed in drunk driving accidents. Therefore, it’s a case of negligence per se—there’s a rebuttable presumption that the defendant was acting negligently.
Negligence per se doesn’t mean your case is a slam dunk, but it can help you meet the burden of proof.
Talk to an Ohio personal injury lawyer today
If you’ve been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, I’ll Make Them Pay!® Call me today at 877.483.2298 for a consultation, and we’ll discuss your claim.