What Is the Difference Between Negligence and Negligence Per Se?
Bill Allen | April 7, 2022 | Negligence
If you’ve been injured in an accident and are filing a personal injury claim, you will likely encounter unfamiliar legal terminology during the process.
For instance, while many people are familiar with negligence, they are less likely to have a firm understanding of negligence per se. Both concepts are terms of art that apply to personal injury cases. Below, we break down the difference between negligence and negligence per se and how they may affect your personal injury claim.
What Is Negligence?
A common basis for recovering damages in a personal injury lawsuit is finding that the defendant was negligent.
Negligence can be broken down into four elements:
- The defendant owes a duty of care to the plaintiff;
- The defendant breached that duty;
- Without the defendant’s breach, the plaintiff would not have been harmed; and
- The plaintiff suffered harm or an injury.
Generally, the “reasonable person” standard is used to determine if a defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. The jury will decide what a reasonable person would have done in the same situation. If the jury finds that the defendant’s conduct fell below the reasonable person standard, they may find them liable for the plaintiff’s damages.
What Is an Example of Negligence?
A classic example of negligence is a slip-and-fall case:
Fred, a grocery store owner, knew that the entrance to his store became very slippery on rainy days. Fred ignored this on a rainy day and neglected to put up any cautionary signs or maintain the area by mopping up excess water. Linda entered his store as a customer and immediately slipped in a puddle of water, breaking her arm.
In this case, Fred owed a duty of care to Linda. As a store owner, he is responsible for keeping his store reasonably safe for customers. Fred breached that duty by not mopping up the floor or putting up warning signs despite knowing that the hazard likely existed on a rainy day. If he had mopped up the water or placed signs, Linda would probably have exercised greater caution and not been injured. Fred is likely negligent and therefore liable for Linda’s broken arm.
What Is Negligence Per Se?
For a successful negligence per se case, the plaintiff needs to prove that the defendant violated a law or regulation and the violation caused the plaintiff’s injury.
Negligence per se only applies if:
- The plaintiff is in the class intended to be protected by the applicable statute; and
- The law was designed to prevent the type of harm suffered by the plaintiff.
In a negligence per se action, the “duty” and “breach of duty” elements of negligence are presumed. However, the plaintiff still needs to prove causation and damages.
What Is an Example of Negligence Per Se?
Let’s look at a simple example to illustrate negligence per se:
Fred was driving his car towards a 4-way stop while Linda crossed the street via the crosswalk. Fred, who was texting on his cell phone, ran the stop sign and struck Linda. She suffered several broken bones and a concussion.
Here, Fred violated two traffic laws: he ran a stop sign and was texting while driving. Because these traffic laws were enacted to protect others sharing the road, including pedestrians like Linda, negligence per se applies. And since Fred’s actions broke Florida traffic laws, Linda doesn’t have to prove that Fred breached his duty of care – this is inferred from his conduct. Linda only needs to prove that Fred’s actions directly caused her injuries.
Distinguishing Between Negligence and Negligence Per Se
Negligence requires a reasonable standard of care and a breach of that duty to be proven by the plaintiff using evidence. Duty and breach of duty can be presumed in a negligence per se case if a law was violated.
Negligence is harder to prove because you must have evidence that the defendant breached their duty of care. In a negligence per se case, the defendant’s breach of duty is presumed because they violated a statute.
Contact Our Ocala Personal Injury Law Firm in North Central Florida
Whether your case is based on negligence or negligence per se, a qualified personal injury attorney in Ocala, FL can help you file your claim and get the maximum compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more.
We have two convenient locations in North Central Florida: