What is the Difference Between Negligence and Negligence Per Se?
Most personal injury claims are based on negligence. Car accidents, slip and fall accidents, and most other accidents occur because someone was negligent. Their errors or reckless acts caused the accident, which resulted in another person being injured.
However, proving the legal elements of negligence can be difficult in some cases. You must have evidence that proves all four legal elements of negligence to win your case.
However, if your claim involves someone breaking the law, it might be easier to prove your case because of the theory of negligence per se.
What are the Legal Elements of a Negligence Claim in Texas?
To recover compensation for a personal injury case, you will need to prove the other party was negligent. In most personal injury cases, the four legal elements of negligence required to prove liability for damages caused by an accident are:
1. Duty of Care
The person owed you a legal duty of care. For example, a nursing home owes a duty of care to its patients to provide a safe place to live and adequate care, free from abuse.
2. Breach of Duty of Care
The party’s conduct failed to meet the standard of care for the situation. For instance, the nursing home failed to screen employees or investigate abuse allegations.
The breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of the situation or accident. In the example above, the failure to screen employees allowed a sexual predator with a known history of abuse to become an employee with access to vulnerable adults.
You suffered damages because of the breach of duty. In the nursing home abuse case, a resident was assaulted by an employee, which resulted in physical injuries and emotional trauma.
Proving negligence requires evidence of all four legal elements. In some cases, it may require testimony from expert witnesses. Experts establish the acceptable standard of care based on what a reasonable person would have done in the same or similar situation. You must then prove how the at-fault party’s actions deviated from the standard of care.
How is Negligence Per Se Cases Different From Negligence Cases?
Negligence per se involves breaking laws enacted to protect the general public from harm. An example would be the DUI laws in Texas. DUI laws are designed to discourage people from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs to avoid DUI accidents.
Speeding laws are another example of laws designed to protect the general public. Speed limits are used to decrease the chance of speeding accidents. If an accident occurs, lower speeds can reduce the risk of catastrophic and life-threatening injuries.
Negligence per se is the legal theory that allows for the presumption of negligence when a party breaks a law designed to protect the public. There must be a penalty for breaking the law in question, such as a fine or jail time. The law must also expressly state the conduct that is prohibited.
To prove your case under the legal theory of negligence per se, you must prove the following legal elements:
- You sustained an injury
- The other party broke the law
- The law that was broken was designed to prevent the type of injury or accident that you sustained
It is important to note that you must prove that the person’s behavior clearly violated the law in question for negligence per se to exist. Also, the law must have been designed to protect the general public, including yourself.
Once you prove the elements of negligence per se, you create a presumption of negligence. However, the defendant can fight the presumption. Therefore, it is always best to consult with a personal injury lawyer about your case, even if it involves the violation of a law that protects the general public.
What Damages Can I Seek?
You are entitled to the same types of damages in cases involving negligence and negligence per se. Depending on the facts in your case, you could recover money for your:
- Medical bills
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent impairments and disabilities
- Loss of earning capacity
- Loss of enjoyment of life
The amount of compensation you receive is based on several factors, including the severity of your injuries and the amount of your financial losses.
What is the Deadline for Filing Negligence Per Se Claims in Texas?
The statute of limitations for personal injury claims involving negligence per se is the same as cases involving negligence. In most personal injury cases, you have two years from the injury date to file a lawsuit.
There are a few exceptions to the two-year deadline to file personal injury lawsuits. Your deadline could be shorter if a government entity is involved in the case. To avoid problems, talk with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.