Negligence Per Se and Your Personal Injury Case

Negligence per se—stemming from Latin and meaning “itself”—is a legal principle which means that an individual was negligent because they violated a statute or regulation.

In order to prove negligence per se, the plaintiff must usually prove that: (1) the defendant violated the statute; (2) the statute provides for criminal penalties (fines, imprisonment, or both) but not civil penalties; (3) the defendant’s actions caused the type of harm the statute was enacted to prevent; and (4) the injured plaintiff was a member of the class of people the statute was designed to protect.

Once a plaintiff establishes the above four elements, it becomes the defendant’s burden to show that the violation of the statute was unintentional and committed in the exercise of ordinary care.

Here is a hypothetical scenario that provides a perfect illustration of negligence per se.

Florida Law

Pursuant to Section 316.089 of the Florida Statutes, a motor vehicle must be driven as nearly as possible within a single lane on the roadway. The law goes on to state that a driver cannot move from their lane until they have first determined it is safe to do so. A driver who fails to follow the terms of Section 316.089, as a provision of Florida law, may be liable for negligence per se if the violation results in a car accident.

Here’s How Negligence Per Se Works

In our hypothetical case, a truck driver (trucker) crashed into another driver’s car (driver) as the trucker was attempting to switch lanes. According to the evidence, the front passenger wheel on the trucker’s truck hit the rear driver’s side wheel on the driver’s car causing the driver to lose control.

The trucker testified in deposition that he checked both of his mirrors before attempting to change lanes; and the driver testified that he was in his own lane at the time of the accident, and was not intending to switch lanes prior to the accident.

The driver filed a personal injury action against the trucker alleging that the trucker was negligent per se for violating Section 316.089 of the Florida Statutes. The driver filed a motion for summary judgment, and the trucker responded with affidavit testimony that he had not yet moved into the driver’s lane at the time of the accident.

The driver then moved the court to disregard the trucker’s affidavit testimony (that he had not switched lanes) because it constituted a sham affidavit by contradicting the trucker’s earlier deposition testimony (that he had looked both ways before moving into the driver’s lane).  The trial court agreed with the driver, and granted summary judgment in his favor. Thus, the court found the trucker liable for the accident because he was negligent per se.

Aside from a perfect illustration of negligence per se, the above hypothetical illustrates the importance of understanding the nuances of Florida’s evidentiary requirements, like striking sham affidavits upon a motion for summary judgment. A skilled, Florida attorney, like Board Certified Personal Injury attorney Jonathan M. Galler, will have this knowledge and can represent you in your personal injury case.

Attorney Jonathan M. Galler handles all types of accident and personal injury cases. If you or a loved one has been in an accident resulting in any sort of injury, you should contact Jonathan M. Galler today. Jonathan M. Galler is known for obtaining results and will fight for you. Call Jonathan M. Galler for a free consultation at (561) 881-6912, or visit us online.