Ordinarily, in a personal injury case in Texas, negligence is an issue that is determined by the trier-of-fact at trial. However, in some personal injury cases, the negligence of the defendant may be established as a matter of law, if it is shown that the defendant violated a Texas law, ordinance or regulation. This concept is called negligence per se, a latin phrase that means negligence “in itself.” In Texas, negligence per se is a tort concept whereby a legislatively-imposed standard of conduct is adopted by the civil courts as defining the conduct of a reasonably prudent person. Carter v. William Sommerville & Son, Inc., 584 S.W.2d 274, 278 (Tex.1979). An unexcused violation of a statute constitutes negligence per se if that statute was designed to prevent injury to the class of persons to which the injured plaintiff belongs. El Chico Corp. v. Poole, 732 S.W.2d 306, 312 (Tex.1987). When the legislature fixes a standard of reasonable care through the enactment of a statute, the trier of fact must determine only if the tortfeasor committed the act proscribed by the statute and if the act proximately caused injury. Moughon v. Wolf, 576 S.W.2d 603, 604-605 (Tex.1978).
Negligence per se sometimes applies to Texas car accident or semi-truck accident cases. Texas courts have held that, if a particular statute provides an absolute standard for determining civil liability, an unexcused violation of that statute constitutes negligence per se. Examples of car wreck cases in Texas where offenses may be regarded as negligence per se include a vehicle owner allowing an unlicensed driver to operate their vehicle, driving on the wrong side of the road and a motorist failing to stop at a red light or stop sign.
If you or a family member were injured in a car wreck or semi-truck accident, a Texas personal injury attorney can evaluate whether the doctrine of negligence per se may be applicable to your case.
About the author: While my office is located in Fort Worth, I am admitted to practice in every state and federal court in Texas, and I am able to handle car accident, semi-truck accident, wrongful death and other personal injury cases in Dallas, Fort Worth, Denton, Houston, Waco, Austin, San Antonio, and across Texas. For a free evaluation of your legal matter, call me at 817.908.9861 or fill out the contact form.