Have you been injured as a result of someone else’s actions or carelessness? You may be able to recover compensation for your medical bills and other losses through a personal injury claim or lawsuit. However, you have to prove negligence to show you are deserving of compensation.

Negligence doesn’t just come in one form. There’s “negligence,” and there’s “negligence per se.”

These aren’t interchangeable terms. By understanding the difference between negligence and negligence per se, you will better understand the nature of your case.

What is Negligence?

Negligence is composed of four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. 

To prove negligence, you must show:

  • Another party owed you a duty of care
  • The party breached their duty 
  • The breach caused your injuries
  • You suffered damages

A duty is a legal obligation that arises from law or custom. For example, property owners and business owners (or similar parties) have a legal responsibility to keep their properties safe for guests and invitees. They must take reasonable steps to eliminate hazards that can cause accidents. Likewise, drivers have a duty to others on the road to obey traffic laws and drive safely. 

Put simply, a person is negligent if they fail to use “reasonable care” and cause injury to another person — implicating the elements of breach and causation. Reasonable care is defined as the basic degree of caution that an ordinary person would exercise in a given situation.

What constitutes reasonable care will differ from case to case. A reasonable person uses common sense and sound judgment to avoid injuring others through their behavior. Importantly, a jury determines whether a defendant exercised reasonable care to avoid injuring others, effectively making jurors the “reasonable person.” 

A jury will evaluate a defendant’s conduct to determine whether they acted like a reasonable person under the circumstances. If they did not, the jury could conclude the defendant was negligent.

What is Negligence Per Se?

Proving negligence per se can be easier than proving negligence in many scenarios. Negligence per se applies when someone breaks a law designed to protect a specific class of persons from specific kinds of injury.

If a person violates such a law, they have breached their duty of care and are negligent per se.

It would not be necessary to prove negligence at trial. All you must prove is that their negligence caused your injuries and damages.

For example, suppose a driver is speeding and collides with another car, causing whiplash to the victim. By speeding, the driver broke a law designed to protect a certain class of persons: drivers and others on the road. Moreover, they caused an injury the law was designed to prevent: whiplash and other car accident injuries. The driver is negligent per se.

Negligence per se cases serve the public interests. They provide civil consequences for breaking the law. Ordinarily, the legal consequences of speeding might result in a speeding ticket. However, speeding can result in negligence per se if it causes an accident. This doctrine is meant to deter others from breaking laws designed to protect public safety.

An Attorney Can Help Your Negligence Claim

Hiring a personal injury attorney is often the best way to prove negligence or negligence per se. Your personal injury attorney will conduct an investigation into your accident to locate evidence and identify liable parties. They will examine the defendant’s actions to determine whether they were negligent per se.

Your attorney can also calculate your damages and help you pursue compensation for each one after your accident. Consider contacting a personal injury attorney to strengthen your negligence claim.