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What is negligence per se?

On Behalf of Christian Ayers
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Under North Carolina law, injured people can file a personal injury suit to recover compensation for their damages if their injuries were the result of another party’s negligence. Typically, a plaintiff has to prove that the defendant acted negligently, that this negligence caused the injury, and that the injury caused the damages. Proving each of these elements can be difficult. One way to speed up the process is through a legal theory known as negligence per se.

Before we explain how negligence per se works, remember that to show negligence, a plaintiff must typically show that the defendant had a duty of care to others, that the defendant breached that duty, that this breach of duty caused the accident, and that the accident caused the plaintiff’s damages.

For example, a driver has a duty to others on the road to exercise reasonable care, so as to avoid causing injury to others. A driver who looks at his cellphone instead of at the road may be said to have breached his duty. If he crashes into another car while looking at his phone, he has caused the accident through negligence. If the person in the other car is injured, the negligent driver can be held liable for the injured person’s damages.

In the example above, the plaintiff has to prove each of the above elements. Negligence per se makes the case somewhat easier by allowing the court to assume the defendant acted negligently in cases where the defendant has broken a relevant, safety-oriented law. For example, stop sign laws are safety-oriented. When a driver runs a stop sign, causing an accident, a court may find that he committed negligence per se. He broke a relevant, safety-oriented law, and in so doing caused an accident.

The injured have a heavy burden of proof before they can be successful in recovering compensation after an accident. A skilled personal injury lawyer can help them understand the legal strategies that can help them succeed.