What Is the Difference Between Negligence and Negligence Per Se?

In any personal injury or auto accident case, victims can attempt to sue the at-fault party to acquire compensation or damages for their injuries, property damage, and more. Depending on the circumstances of your case, your California personal injury lawyer may attempt to prove negligence or negligence per se on the part of the at-fault individual or party.

This page will break down the differences between negligence and negligence per se so you know which type your personal injury lawsuit will include, as well as which type of negligence can help you win your case.

Negligence Defined

Negligence in the legal sense is fairly straightforward: it’s acting in a manner contrary to what a reasonable or ordinary person would do in the same situation. For example, a reasonable person will watch for stop signs while driving, will clean up slippery floors if they work at a restaurant, and will not leave hazardous materials out that might injure others.

An accused party is considered “negligent” if they perform (or fail to perform) actions that a reasonable person would not do (or would do).

For a hypothetical example, imagine a restaurant owner with ice in front of their business’s front door. If they do not remove the ice or put up a sign warning people about the danger, they may be considered negligent in a personal injury case if someone slips on the ice and suffers an injury. 

What is Negligence Per Se?

Negligence is not the same thing as negligence per se. Under the negligence per se legal theory, a defendant is automatically presumed to be negligent if they break a statute or law and in doing so injure a plaintiff.

For example, it is illegal to run a red light while driving. If a defendant runs a red light and impacts another vehicle, injuring its driver, then they are presumed negligent per se since they broke a law. In doing so, they directly injured another person.

Another example is drinking and driving. Driving while under the influence of any controlled substance is illegal. So a person doing so is automatically negligent per se. Any injuries they inflict on another person fall under this legal theory.

How Negligence/Negligence Per Se Might Affect Your Case

During a personal injury case in California, your lawyer may invoke the doctrine of negligence per se against the defendant. This gives the defendant the chance to disprove the accusation, but negligence per se is very difficult to disprove compared to regular negligence.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, your personal injury lawyer may attempt to find a law that the defendant broke and use that to prove negligence per se in your case. However, your lawyer may have alternative strategies or methods to secure victory for your lawsuit.

For more information about the differences between negligence and negligence per se, contact us today. You can schedule a free consultation to discuss your personal injury lawsuit.