What Is the Difference Between Negligence and Negligence Per Se?

When someone is hurt because of another person’s actions, you might hear about “negligence” and “negligence per se.” These are two different legal ideas. Understanding the difference between them is really important if you’re involved in a case like this.

Negligence means someone wasn’t careful enough and caused harm. Negligence per se is a bit different. It means someone broke a specific law, and that’s why the injury happened. Knowing which one applies to your case can help determine how long it might take to resolve and your chances of winning.

What Does Negligence Mean?

Negligence, in legal terms, means failing to be as careful as you should be, which then causes harm to someone else. The idea of being “careful enough” changes based on the situation. 

For instance, doctors have to be very careful with their patients because their actions can easily cause harm. This high level of care they must provide is known as their “duty of care.” When someone doesn’t meet their duty of care, it can be considered negligence.

To prove someone was negligent, you need to show four key things:

  • Duty: The person had a responsibility to be careful.
  • Breach: They didn’t meet this responsibility.
  • Damages: Someone was hurt or something was damaged because of the breach of duty.
  • Causation: The harm was directly and proximately caused by their failure to be careful.

This process can involve a lot of evidence, like expert opinions and eyewitness accounts. Courts and juries then decide if a reasonable person in the same situation would have acted the same way. For example, if a driver runs a red light (breach of duty) and hits another car, causing injury (damages), and this accident happened because they ran the light (causation), they are considered negligent.

What Is Negligence Per Se?

Negligence per se is a slightly different kind of legal claim, and it’s all about breaking specific laws. When someone is accused of negligence per se, it means their action is considered automatically negligent because they did something illegal. This type of negligence is based on the idea that if you break a law meant to keep people safe, you’re being negligent.

In normal negligence cases, you have to prove those four elements – duty, breach, damages, and causation. But in negligence per se, you focus on proving that the person broke a specific law. If you can show that they did something illegal, like speeding or not following building codes, you’re already halfway there. The law they broke is like a shortcut to proving they were careless.

In these cases, the jury doesn’t have to decide if the person’s actions were reasonable or not – breaking the law is already seen as unreasonable. The main thing left to prove is whether that illegal action directly and proximately caused the harm or accident. This makes it a bit easier for the person who was hurt to get compensation for their damages.

How Comparative Fault Laws Impact Your Case

Comparative fault laws play a significant role in negligence cases. These laws come into play when both parties involved in an accident may share some of the blame. Instead of an all-or-nothing approach, comparative fault allows the court to assign a percentage of fault to each party.

For example, let’s say you’re in a car accident where the other driver ran a stop sign, but you were speeding. The court might decide that the other driver is 70% at fault for running the stop sign, but you’re 30% at fault for speeding. If your total damages were $10,000, you would only be able to collect 70% of that amount, or $7,000, due to your 30% share of the fault.

This system is called “pure comparative negligence,” and is followed by many states, including Arizona and New Mexico. It ensures that each party takes responsibility for their part in an accident, and it directly affects the outcome and compensation in negligence cases. 

A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Prove Negligence

If you are considering filing a personal injury claim, negligence will likely play a key role in how your case progresses. The first step in the process is to reach out to a qualified attorney for a free case review.

Contact the Arizona Personal Injury Lawyers at Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers Today

If you were injured in an accident in Phoenix, AZ, and need legal help, contact our Phoenix personal injury attorneys at Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free case review today.

Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers
1221 E Osborn Rd. Suite 201
Phoenix, AZ 85014
(602) 595-5559