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Negligence Per Se In Florida Personal Injury Cases


When someone is injured in an accident, the resulting personal injury lawsuit may be brought under a theory of negligence, meaning that the defendant allegedly acted without the reasonable care that was expected of them (or someone else in their situation). However, in certain personal injury cases, a doctrine called negligence per se may come up in debating how best to hold a defendant liable. In some situations, negligence per se can help an injured plaintiff establish the defendant’s liability in a much simpler way than one would in a standard personal injury matter – but the doctrine is not applicable in every case.

Ordinary Negligence

Ordinary negligence is the building block of most, if not all, personal injury cases. In a standard accident case, the injured plaintiff is attempting to establish that the defendant was negligent in order to recover compensation. If a plaintiff is injured in an accident with another person, the plaintiff must establish four criteria in order to recover from the other person: (1) that the defendant owed a duty of reasonable care toward the plaintiff; (2) that the duty of care was breached; (3) that the breach of the duty happened directly because of the defendant’s actions; and (4) you directly suffered harm as a result of those actions.

While a criminal case requires that the defendant be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, a civil action only requires a finding that the defendant was liable in order for the plaintiff to be able to recover. In Florida, a defendant does not even have to be liable for the majority of the defendant’s injuries – a plaintiff cannot recover for their own fault, but as long as the defendant is deemed liable for a percentage, the plaintiff can recover. For example, if the injured plaintiff is held to have been responsible for 40 percent of their own injuries, they could still recover the other 60 percent of their damages from the defendant.

Negligence Per Se Is Narrowly Applied

Compared to ordinary negligence, negligence per se is more specific, and is only applicable to cases in which a law has allegedly been violated. It is designed to provide a ‘shortcut’ of sorts to establishing negligence, reasoning that if someone violates a “non-traffic penal statute” and injures someone that the law was designed to protect, in the way it was designed to protect against, negligence can be inferred as a matter of law. This means that the plaintiff does not have to spend time and energy proving it.

The rationale is that if the legislature cares enough about a specific situation to regulate it, it implicitly establishes a minimum required level of reasonable care. Since the legislature’s intent is generally controlling, the jury must accept that if a law is broken, there is an implicit presumption of negligence (that can then, in theory, be definitively proven by the facts of the case). For example, if there is a leash law in your city, but your dog runs free and bites someone, you may be held to have been negligent per se because you breached the leash law, designed to protect passersby from dangerous dogs.

Contact A Tampa Personal Injury Attorney

Accidents happen because of negligence, but if laws have also been broken, it may be easier than you think to establish negligence on the part of the defendant. Negligence per se can help save time and trouble if it applies in your case. A Tampa personal injury attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group can help answer any questions you may have. Call our offices today for a free consultation.





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