What is the Difference Between Negligence and Negligence Per Se?

Personal injury cases are based on the legal doctrine of negligence, as a personal injury lawyer in Sebastian, FL, like from Tuttle Law, P.A., can explain.  Generally, to prove a negligence case, the injured party must prove four basic elements:

1.        That the defendant owed a duty to act safely with regard to the injured party.  For example, motorists owe other motorists a legal duty to drive safely;

2.       That the defendant breached their duty to the injured party by acting negligently.  If a driver runs a red light and hits another vehicle, the driver has breached their duty to the occupants of the other vehicle;

3.       That the injured party suffered damages.  To succeed in a personal injury case, the injured party must prove that they sustained injuries; and

4.       That the negligence of the defendant was the cause of the injured party’s injury.  In many injury cases, defendants and their insurance companies will attempt to argue that the injured party’s injuries were pre-existing and were not caused by the accident.

Negligence cases do not require the violation of a specific law or statute.  For example, there may not be a specific law that requires a supermarket to keep its floors clean and dry.  However, courts have held that store owners owe a duty to their customers to take reasonable measures to keep their floors safe and clean.  So, if a supermarket fails to take reasonable steps to keep their floors clean and the supermarket’s failure to exercise a reasonable level of care results in injury to a customer, the customer can bring a negligence claim against the supermarket.

The law of negligence has been developed by courts and has its roots in English law.  Legal traditions and rules that have been developed by courts, not legislatures, are referred to as the “common law.”

Negligence per se, on the other hand, is based on a violation of a specific statutory law.  To qualify as a negligence per se case, the statute in question must be a statute that was intended to protect the public.  A defendant is negligent, under a theory of negligence per se, if:

1.       The defendant violated a public safety law;

2.       The injured party is member of the class of people that the public safety law was intended to protect;

3.       The injury is the type of injury that the law was intended to prevent; and

4.       The defendant’s violation of the public safety law caused the injury.

The doctrine of negligence per se is helpful to injured parties as it simplifies the process of proving that the defendant owed a legal duty to the injured party.