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What is the Role of Presumed Negligence in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Posted on in Personal Injury

Rockford personal injury attorneysThe vast majority of personal injury lawsuits involve the concept of negligence. When a negligent party’s carelessness causes another person to be injured or killed, the negligent party is liable for the damages caused by the injury or death. Proving that the defendant acted negligently is often the most complicated and challenging part of a personal injury lawsuit. In some cases, however, a defendant in a personal injury case is automatically presumed to have been negligent. Read on to learn about the legal concept of “negligence per se” and how it can help if you or a loved one were injured by another person’s recklessness.

Main Elements of a Negligence Claim

Typically, there are four elements to establishing negligence in a personal injury case. First, you and your lawyer must prove that the defendant owed you a “duty of care.” Duty of care simply means that the defendant had an obligation to act in a way that does not put the plaintiff at an unreasonable risk of harm. For example, a property owner who invites guests onto his property has a duty to maintain a reasonably safe premises that does not include environmental hazards like broken stairs. Next, you will need to prove that the defendant did not uphold his or her duty of care. For example, if the property owner knew that the stairs were broken and did not warn guests about this danger, he did not uphold his duty of care. The third element in a personal injury case is that the plaintiff was injured. Lastly, you need to prove that the defendant’s breach of duty caused the injuries.

Negligence Per Se Can Be a Shortcut to Proving Negligence

If the defendant violated the law, and this violation resulted in injury or death, the defendant may be considered negligent per se. In order for a defendant to be considered negligent per se, the following conditions must be present:

  • The defendant violated a public statute.
  • The plaintiff, or injured person, is a member of the class that the statute is meant to protect.
  • The injury sustained by the plaintiff is an injury that the statute is intended to prevent.
  • The defendant’s unlawful behavior caused the plaintiff’s injury.

If you are injured in an accident involving a drunk driver, for example, the driver will most likely be considered negligent per se. This means that the driver would be presumed to have acted negligently, and you will not need to further prove negligence because driving under the influence is already against the law.

Rebutting the Presumption of Negligence

It is important to understand that negligence per se does not mean that the defendant has no recourse. The defendant and his or her attorney can present evidence or even an affirmative defense to rebut the presumption of negligence. He or she may have had a justification for breaking the law that reduces or eliminates his or her level of contributory negligence.

For example, if you were crossing the street at an intersection and were hit by a car that ran a red light, the driver of the car is likely to be considered negligent per se. After all, the driver failed to stop at a traffic signal and injured a pedestrian—a member of the group that traffic laws are designed to protect. However, if the driver was trying to stop and a defective brake line failed, leaving the driver unable to stop safely, the driver’s attorney would probably be able to overcome the presumption of negligence. In this example, the manufacturer of the brake line would likely share in the liability for your injuries.

Contact a Rockford Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one were injured because of another party’s negligence, contact a Winnebago County personal injury lawyer at Mannarino & Brasfield, A Division of KJS. Schedule a free, confidential consultation by calling 815-215-7561 today.

 

Source:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?ActID=1815&ChapterID=49&SeqStart=120200000&SeqEnd=125200000

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