Negligence per se is a legal precept that means an individual was automatically negligent because they violated a state or local statute or regulation.
To establish negligence per se, the plaintiff must typically show that: (1) the defendant violated the statute; (2) the statute provides for criminal penalties (fines, imprisonment, or both) but not civil penalties; (3) the defendant's actions caused the type of harm the statute was enacted to prevent; and (4) the injured plaintiff was a member of the class of people the statute was designed toprotect.
Once the above four points are proven, the defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that the violation of the statute at issue was unintentional and could not have been avoided.
A hypothetical situation is best used to illustrate how negligence per se works:
According to CRS 42-4-1007, Colorado Statutes, a vehicle must be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane. A driver cannot begin to move into another lane until they have first ascertained that it is safe to do so. A driver who fails to follow the terms of CRS 42-4-1007, as a provision of Colorado's traffic law, may be culpable for negligence per se if the violation leads to an accident with another driver.
Negligence Per Se
In our fictitious case, the driver of a vehicle (driver) crashed into a motorcycle driver (motorcyclist) as the driver was attempting to change lanes. The evidence showed that the front right wheel on the driver's car hit the motorcyclist's back wheel, causing the motorcyclist to lose control and crash.
In a deposition, the driver stated that she had looked both ways and checked her side view mirrors before switching lanes. The motorcyclist testified that he was riding in his own lane and did not attempt to change lanes when the accident occurred.
The motorcyclists filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver for damages, and alleged that the driver was negligent per se for failing to maintain a single lane in violation of CRS 42-4-1007. The motorcyclist then moved for summary judgment against the driver, but the driver retorted by filing an affidavit claiming that at the time of the accident, she had not even begun to switch lanes and was in her own lane.
The motorcyclist then asked the judge to discard the driver's affidavit (stating she had not yet moved into the motorcyclist's lane) because it was a sham affidavit as it contradicted the driver's deposition testimony (that she had looked before beginning to move into the motorcyclist's lane). The judge sided with the motorcyclist, and granted him judgment in his favor. Accordingly, the driver was liable for negligence per se for violating the law requiring her to maintain a single lane resulting in a collision and injury suffered by the motorcyclist.
In addition to illustrating how the doctrine of per se operates, our hypothetical case demonstrates the necessity of comprehending the details of Colorado's evidentiary code, like disregarding sham affidavits when the testimony conflicts with earlier, sworn testimony. An experienced, Colorado attorney, like those at the Law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal, has this knowledge and can represent you in your personal injury case.
You should always hire a personal injury attorney to handle your personal injury case, particularly when you have been injured. Your attorney can help maximize the amount of compensation you recover and better defend you if you are responsible for the accident. The attorneys at the Law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal have decades of experience representing clients in all sorts of accident cases. If you or a loved one has been injured in any type of accident, call the Law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal today for a free consultation at (303) 647-4511, or visit us online.