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What is negligence per se?

Negligence per se is a doctrine of the law that states that an act is considered to be negligent because it is in violation of a statute or regulation. In order to prove negligence per se, the plaintiff is required to show that the defendant acted in violation of the statute; the statute calls for a criminal penalty, such as a fine or time in jail; the misconduct brought about the kind of injury that the statute was designed to prevent; and plaintiff was included in the class of people protected by the statute.

Among the typical examples of violation of laws that could result in a claim of negligence per se are blood alcohol content limits for motorists, speed limits and building codes. In a case in which negligence per se is alleged, the “duty” and “breach” elements of the negligence claim are removed. Thus, it is unnecessary to prove how the defendant’s conduct was careless when filing a claim of negligence per se.

In a personal injury case arising from a motor vehicle accident, one does not have to prove that the other motorist breached the duty of care.

In cases involving motor vehicle accidents, negligence per se would apply to such violations as driving while inebriated, speeding, reckless driving or running a traffic stop sign or traffic light. If one suffers an injury because another person has broken the law, then one could have a valid case of negligence per se.

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