The Meaning of Negligence Per Se

The phrase negligence per se might get used during the course of a trial. It permits inference of negligence, when a defendant has violated a recognized safety statute, municipal ordinance or established regulation. The introduction of that particular inference makes it easier for a plaintiff/victim to recover damages.

Negligence per se frees the jury from the need to determine whether or not the defendant’s actions were reasonable.

In the eyes of the law, the violation of a rule qualifies as an unreasonable action. Still, the jury has to make 2 further determinations. The jury must decide whether or not the defendant’s conduct violated the rule, and also caused the plaintiff’s injury.

The jury must study the violated rule. Was it written for protection of the class of individuals to which the plaintiff belongs? If it was not written for that class of people, then there is no legal basis for the negligence per se claim.

Suppose, for example, that a driver got in an accident while a passenger was using a cell phone. The rule against driving while distracted applies to drivers, and not passengers. The jury could not consider a negligence per se charge, unless the evidence indicated that the driver had given a cell phone to the passenger, and had asked the same passenger to dial a certain number.

Injury Lawyer in Georgetown knows that a negligence per se charge could apply to several types of accidents, not just a collision between 2 or more motor vehicles. In fact, a victim that had hoped to accuse a property owner of premises liability might find that he or she must fight a negligence per se charge.

That could happen if someone ventured foolishly onto a construction site, and, ignorant of a posted sign’s meaning, managed to come in contact with the exposed electrical wires. If the property owner had worked with the construction company to post warning signs about the electrical wires, then the victim could not accuse that same property owner of premises liability. By the same token, a jury could not claim negligence per se, because the posted signs were meant to keep construction workers safe from harm.

Excuses by defendants that can free them from a charge of negligence per se:

The defendant did not know about, and was not expected to know about the legal provisions that required compliance to the violated rule.

• The defendant was unable to comply with the rule that he or she was charged with violating.
• The defendant faced an emergency at the time when he or she was accused of violating a specific rule.
• The defendant realized that he or she would stand at risk by remaining in compliance with the rule that was ultimately violated.

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