Negligence Per Se

A question mark on a chalkboard

Negligence per se is a doctrine that provides that an action or conduct by a defendant is considered negligent because it violates a statute or regulation. Here, violation of the statute absent some valid excuse is automatically considered to be a breach of a duty of care owed to others, making it negligence as a matter of law. 

Negligence per se creates a presumption that the defendant acted negligently, resulting in harm to the plaintiff. The presumption is rebuttable, meaning that once the negligence per se is established by the plaintiff, the defendant can offer evidence to refute the presumption. 

Negligence per se creates an easier route for a plaintiff to prove negligence and recover damages for any resulting injury. 

Elements of Negligence Per Se 

A plaintiff’s showing that all elements of a negligence per se claim are met results in conclusive proof that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty and breached it. While ordinary negligence requires a plaintiff to show that the defendant acted negligently and that negligence was a substantial factor in causing harm, in proving negligence per se, a plaintiff must prove the following: 

  1. The defendant violated a statute or regulation;
  2. The violation caused injury or harm to the plaintiff; 
  3. The harm caused by the defendant’s violation was the type of harm that the statute or regulation was designed to prevent; and 
  4. The plaintiff is a member of the class of persons that the statute or regulation was designed to protect.

In court, the jury will be instructed that if the defendant violated a law and that violation was a substantial factor in bringing about harm to the plaintiff, then it must find that the defendant was negligent unless the violation was excused. 

Rebutting a Presumption of Negligence 

Certain reasons exist that allow for a law to be violated, thereby rebutting the presumption of negligence. These reasons include: 

  • The defendant’s age or disability amounts to incapacitation 
  • The defendant did not know or should not have known that compliance with the law was required, or the violation was otherwise reasonable in the specific situation
  • The defendant used reasonable care in an attempt to comply with the law
  • The defendant was faced with an emergency that he did not cause 
  • Compliance with the law would have resulted in a greater risk of harm than noncompliance 

Common Situations Where a Defendant is Negligent as a Matter of Law 

Some common situations which would result in a presumption of negligence include: 

  • Drunk driving accidents
  • Violations of speed limits
  • Violations of pet leash laws 
  • Building code violations by owners and tenants 
  • Violations of private security laws 

What if I Have Been Harmed by a Defendant’s Violation of a Law?
Negligence per se provides an easier route to prove negligence where a defendant violates a statute or a regulation. Many lawyers fail to bring forth a negligence per se claim in legal proceedings. If you have been injured as a result of someone’s violation of a law, contact the Los Angeles personal injury attorneys at Jahrmarkt & Associates. Call (310) 226-7676 or visit our website to schedule your free consultation.