Negligence Per Se and Personal Injury
When you are injured due to the negligence of another person, you may generally bring suit in a civil action to try and recover for your injuries. However, in certain situations, you may be able to bypass at least part of such a proceeding, if the defendant can be shown to have violated Florida law, rather than merely being careless. A knowledgeable attorney should be able to help properly interpret the law to aid your cause.
In normal negligence actions, there are four criteria that must be proven before the defendant may be held liable. They are:
- The existence of a duty of care between plaintiff and defendant;
- A breach of that duty;
- Showing sufficient causation between the defendant’s conduct and plaintiff’s injuries;
- That the plaintiff did indeed suffer tangible injury (that is, more than a minor injury; something that affected their quality of life).
Negligence per se is when a breach of duty is established by law, which means that two of the four steps the plaintiff must prove are done so for them. In Florida, one must also prove that they are part of the class that the broken law was meant to protect in order to establish negligence per se, but to do so is often a simple matter. Breaking a law aimed at public safety, which is a requirement for negligence per se, is essentially the same as breaching a duty of care, as laws generally create these. Thus, if the harm done to the plaintiff was foreseeable (they were of the class and suffered the injury the statute aimed to safeguard), negligence per se will likely be established.
There are several situations under the law where negligence per se claims are quite common, simply because of the way Florida’s personal injury regulations are set up. Perhaps the most often seen is regarding cases where a defendant drives under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI). The state regulations regarding DUIs set out a specific Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level that must not be crossed, and state that anyone who does so and then operates a motor vehicle is guilty of a civil infraction (or, in some cases, a criminal felony). This is clearly a law passed to protect public safety, and a plaintiff injured in a car accident with a drunk driver, for example, is the class of person the statute is designed to protect, as well as suffering foreseeable injuries. Negligence per se is very often found in DUI cases.
Another common incidence of such findings is dog bite cases. While in Florida, a dog owner is liable for any injury suffered as a result of their dog biting, regardless of circumstances, it is very possible to have a finding of negligence per se if, for example, the law regarding leashed dogs is broken. If an owner permits their dog to run free and it bites someone, that would likely qualify as a situation in which negligence per se could be found – the leash law is a public safety regulation, and it was breached, causing foreseeable harm to a foreseeable plaintiff (anyone nearby).
Consult a Winter Park Personal Injury Lawyer
While negligence per se is not usable in every situation, it may be applicable in yours. The zealous Winter Park personal injury attorneys at the Hornsby Law Group can help advise you as to what your options are, and suggest the best path forward so that you and your family can get life back to normal. Contact us today to set up an initial consultation.