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How Negligence Per Se Applies to Speeding Accidents

Speeding is a common traffic violation in the U.S. and one of the leading causes of serious accidents.

When they cause injury or property damage, speeding accidents fall under negligence per se. This legal concept means establishing who is to blame for an accident.

The Definition of Negligence Per Se

Per se in Latin means ‘by itself.’ So, negligence per se means negligence by itself. This legal doctrine applies to civil lawsuits when a plaintiff sues a defendant for damages.

If the doctrine applies in the state where the case is filed, it becomes easier for the plaintiff to get compensation.

Negligence per se does not stand on its own; you have to consider it within a tort claim. For instance, if you want to recover compensation for injuries caused by a speeding accident, you must prove that the other driver was negligent. You must also show the harm that their negligence caused.

Moreover, considering the speeding, you need to prove that the harm was foreseeable. And, your damages must be a direct result of the speeding, aka negligence.

When it comes to a speeding accident, the standard of reasonability applies. You must show that a reasonable person would not have driven faster than the speed limit.

But, when a personal injury case includes negligence per se, the standard looks different. With negligence per se, it is assumed that the defendant was negligent because they violated a law or regulation meant to protect the plaintiff.

Essentially, you must prove that the defendant broke the law while showing that the defendant’s negligence caused you harm. However, under the per se law, you do not have to make any reasonable comparisons.

When Does Negligence Per Se Come Into Effect?

The negligence per se doctrine does not apply in all states. When it does apply, it means the defendant violated a law or regulation that was meant to keep the public safe.

In most cases, just the fact that the defendant broke these rules (like exceeding the speed limit) is enough to prove they are at fault for an accident.

What Does Negligence Per Se Look Like In Real Life?

The concept of negligence per se comes to life during different situations. For example, if a driver exceeds the speed limit while drunk and causes an accident, negligence per se applies. This is because DUI and speeding laws are supposed to protect people from accidents like these. Moreover, the driver’s DUI violation is the direct cause of harm.

If a driver speeds down a residential street and crashes into a car stopped at a red light, the first driver is negligent per se because they violated the speed limit and could not stop in time.

But, if a driver drives too fast on a highway and swerves dramatically to avoid a pothole, they could collide with a car in the adjacent lane. If this happens, the accident might be attributed to the pothole, not the speeding.

Negligence per se does not only apply to traffic accidents. It also has an impact on the medical field. For instance, if a doctor leaves a surgical instrument inside a patient during an operation, negligence per se comes into effect. The doctor would have breached his duty of care by being negligent to the point of leaving the instrument behind.

Deconstructing the Negligence Per Se Doctrine

If you want to use negligence per se in your personal injury case, the case must meet several conditions.

If your injuries occur due to a speeding accident, you must have evidence that the driver was speeding. This evidence can be a police citation or witness testimony. In some cases, reconstruction data can also prove speeding.

Also, speeding in itself is not enough to prove harm. You must prove that the speeding caused the accident. So, if the driver drove too fast and lost control of the vehicle because of speeding, negligence per se would apply.

But, if the driver was speeding and the car suffered a mechanical failure, negligence per se would not apply. This is because the mechanical failure would have caused the accident, not the speeding per se.

And, if you did not suffer an injury or property damage because of the speeding accident, you cannot claim anything. Injuries and damage form the core of personal injury cases.

Advantages of Using Negligence Per Se

Plainly stated, negligence per se makes it easier to determine who is to blame for an accident. In many personal injury cases, the plaintiff must prove duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages.

With negligence per se, the fact that the driver exceeded the speed limit already proves the breach of duty. This saves time and effort that would otherwise be spent arguing the breach of standard of care.

Furthermore, negligence per se shifts the burden of proof to the defendant. They now have to try and prove they acted reasonably despite speeding.

Negligence per se may also mean increased compensation, depending on the seriousness of the damages or injuries caused.

Why Negligence Per Se Does Not Guarantee a Win

Unfortunately, despite making things easier, negligence per se does not guarantee a positive outcome in personal injury cases.

This is because many states follow comparative negligence laws. So, if your actions contributed to the accident, it will reduce your recoverable damages. This is true even though the other driver was speeding.

There are also rare cases in which a driver might have a valid defense against a negligence per se claim. Given the circumstances, if they had to speed to avoid a dangerous hazard, they could argue that they acted reasonably.

Getting the Help You Need

Considering how complicated the per se rule can be, you should consult an attorney before filing a personal injury case. Your attorney will determine whether the per se rule applies to your case and advise you on how to proceed.

With your lawyer’s help, you can protect your rights while claiming compensation for an accident that was not your fault. And, if things do not go your way, settling-wise, your lawyer will take your case to court to fight for your compensation.


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