Negligence Per Se Explained

In Texas car accident cases, the plaintiff must typically prove the defendant was negligent to win his or her case.

However, there are a class of cases in which the “negligence per se” doctrine applies. In these cases, the plaintiff is not required to prove the defendant was negligent to win.

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What is “Negligence Per Se?”

A Texas plaintiff suing to recover after a car wreck usually must offer up evidence proving the defendant was acting negligently. This generally involves presenting evidence the defendant was not acting how a reasonable person would under the circumstances.

However, if the negligence per se doctrine applies, the law “presumes” the defendant’s behavior was negligent as a matter of law.

What this means is the plaintiff is not required to offer up evidence proving the defendant was negligent. The plaintiff simply must prove that a specific violation of the law occurred, and that violation is automatically assumed to be negligent.

When does Negligence Per Se apply?

The doctrine only applies in a limited set of cases. These cases generally involve a violation of a code, statute, or regulation designed to safeguard and improve public safety. Common examples include building codes and traffic laws.

There are also certain case requirements that first must be met. All the following must be true for negligence per se to apply:

  1. The defendant violated a code, statute or regulation.
  2. The plaintiff is in the class of persons the code, statute, or regulation was designed to protect.
  3. The plaintiff’s injury was the kind of injury the code, statute, or regulation was designed to prevent.
  4. The code, statute, or regulation carries some kind of criminal penalty, such as a fine or jail time.

What are some examples of negligence per se?

A common example would be a Texas driver striking a pedestrian while driving over the speed limit. Let’s take a look at each of the case requirements in turn:

  1. Speed limits are set by statute.
  2. Speed limits are designed to protect other motorists and pedestrians.
  3. Being struck and injured by a speeding driver is kind of harm the speed limit is designed to prevent.
  4. Although the punishment for speeding is usually a ticket, this is a criminal fine.

Because all the above requirements are met, negligence per se would apply.

See also…rear end collision fault.

Another example would be a home-builder violating building codes, leading the house to collapse and injure someone. A third, common example is a driver running a red light and striking another vehicle.

These are only a few examples of when the negligence per se doctrine would apply.