Texas and federal laws provide that those who cause harm to others through their own negligence should be held liable for the damages they caused. Therefore, a person seeking compensation in a personal injury lawsuit typically must prove the other party caused the accident through negligence.
Sometimes, proving negligence is not easy. It requires gathering evidence of how the other party behaved before the accident, how that activity resulted in the accident, and how a reasonable person would have acted under the same circumstances, and more. However, a legal concept known as negligence per se can sometimes help people bypass some of these requirements.
Negligence per se comes up often in personal injury cases where the plaintiff can show the defendant violated a law that was meant to protect public safety, such as a speed limit or a drunk driving law. After establishing negligence per se, the plaintiff does not have to argue that a reasonable person would have acted differently under the circumstances. The court assumes that violating the safety law is, on its face, an act of negligence.
For example, after a fatal car accident, the family members of the victim file a type of personal injury claim known as a wrongful death lawsuit. To prove that the other driver acted with negligence per se, the family shows that police who responded to the scene arrested the driver and charged him with drunk driving, and that he was convicted of the crime. Laws against drunk driving are meant to protect the safety of the public. Therefore, causing an accident while driving drunk is negligence per se.
Losing a loved one in an accident is a terrible thing for a family to experience. Certainly, no legal action can bring back a loved one. However, the damages suffered by a family after a fatal accident are very real. They lose their loved one's income and companionship, and these can have long-term consequences for their financial and physical health.
A wrongful death lawsuit can help surviving family members cope with these losses. One way for them to succeed in their claim is to establish negligence per se.