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Negligence Per Se: Liability When A Law Is Broken


If someone injures you, in order to find them negligent, and hold them responsible for your injuries, do you have to find that they broke an actual, written law? You mean be surprised to learn that the answer to that question is “no.”

You Don’t Need a Law

This may not make sense, but negligence doesn’t always care about what the written law says. Negligence only asks if someone did something, or failed to do something, that a careful, normally prudent person would have done (or wouldn’t have done). In other words, negligence asks whether your behavior was “in line with” the behavior of someone that was exercising proper care.

Think about it: there is no written law that says how many responsible adults should supervise any number of kids around a pool. No law that says how many times a grocery store’s aisles need to be inspected. No law that says that a business needs to have a certain number of security guards. Yet, all of these are situations where people and businesses can be sued for being negligent.

When Laws are Broken

Despite that, there are some situations where an express, written law is broken by a defendant, and the breaking of that law causes you to be injured.

Imagine these scenarios:

  • The law says that a stairwell has to have a handrail at a certain height, but the handrail on the stairs where you were injured, doesn’t meet that height requirement
  • A train hits you at an intersection with no lights, even though the law says that train intersections must be lighted
  • Part of a building falls on you, and you later learn that the collapse was because the building was not constructed according to legally required building codes and standards
  • Someone runs a red light, when we all know that drivers are supposed to stop at a red light.

Negligence Per Se

When someone is negligent as the result of breaking a written law, it is called negligence per se. Proving negligence per se means that the victim will have an easier time proving their case.

So long as you can show a written law was violated, that the Plaintiff was supposed to be protected by the law that was broken, and that the injury was caused by, or related to, the violation of the law, then the victim has enough to show negligence per se.

The purpose of the law must have been to protect from the kind of injury that the victim suffered. So, for example, if someone was injured when they were sucked into an unprotected pool drain, that would be negligence per se, given that the point of pool drain protection laws is to prevent exactly that type of injury.

What legal cause of action will let you sue for your injuries? We can help. Call the Clinton personal injury lawyers at Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, PLLC, today.




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