What Is the Difference Between Negligence Per Se and Negligence in SC?

Difference Between Negligence Per Se and Negligence in SC

Most South Carolina personal injury cases are based on a theory of negligence. This legal term essentially means that a person did not act the way that a reasonable person would in a similar situation. Another way to think of negligence is carelessness, as opposed to intentional behavior.

There are different types of negligence under South Carolina law. A key example is a negligence per se, which is when a person is deemed to have acted negligently when they violate certain laws. The main difference between negligence per se and negligence in South Carolina is that with negligence per se, you don’t have to prove that the other person was negligent – just that they violated a law that was designed to prevent the type of injury that you suffered.

If you have been hurt in any type of accident, you may be entitled to compensation from the negligent party. Regardless of whether the other person was negligent or negligent per se, a South Carolina negligence injury lawyer can help you get the money you deserve for your losses. Reach out today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.

What Is Negligence Per Se?

In South Carolina, if a person violates a statute (law), it is considered negligence per se. Depending on the facts of the case, an injury victim may bring a personal injury lawsuit based on a theory of negligence per se.

To do so, a plaintiff  (accident victim) must prove three things:

  1. The at-fault party (defendant) violated a law;
  2. The purpose of the law is to protect from the kind of harm that the plaintiff suffered; and
  3. The plaintiff is a member of the class of persons that the law is intended to protect.

Under a theory of negligence per se, a jury does not need to decide if the defendant acted as a reasonable person would act given the circumstances. Instead, the jury just needs to decide whether the defendant’s violation of the law caused the plaintiff’s injuries. If so, then the plaintiff will be entitled to recover compensation for their medical treatment, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses.

For example, consider a car accident case involving a driver who was speeding. South Carolina’s speeding laws were intended to prevent motor vehicle collisions, as it is harder to see potential dangers on the road and to stop in time if you are driving at an unsafe speed. These laws were designed to protect everyone else on the road, including other drivers.

A driver who was struck by a speeding motorist may be able to pursue a claim based on negligence per se. If they can prove that the defendant was speeding at the time of the crash and that the speeding caused the collision, they will likely win their case. A jury will then determine what damages should be awarded to the plaintiff.

Negligence per se creates a rebuttable presumption that the defendant acted negligently. This means that if the plaintiff can prove these three elements, the jury will presume that the defendant was negligent. However, because the presumption is rebuttable, the defendant can present evidence to show that they were not negligent – such as proof that they weren’t speeding at the time of the accident.

How Is Negligence Per Se Different from Negligence?

The main difference between negligence per se and negligence in South Carolina is what an injury victim has to prove in order to recover. In most personal injury cases, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care and that they violated that duty of care to establish negligence. 

Negligence per se eliminates the need to introduce this type of evidence, which often makes it easier to win your case. This is particularly true when the defendant is cited for their violation of the law.

For example, a driver rear-ends your car at a red light, causing whiplash and other injuries. The driver appears to be under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. If they are not cited for a DUI, then your personal injury lawyer will introduce circumstantial evidence – like bloodshot eyes or being unsteady on their feet – to convince the jury that they were drunk at the time of the accident. However, if the police arrest the other driver for a DUI,  then the plaintiff won’t need to introduce this type of evidence, and can instead rely on proof of the arrest.

Negligence per se may also allow an injury victim to seek punitive damages. If a person was found to be negligent per se, then this is some evidence that they acted recklessly and willfully. In typical negligence cases, punitive damages are not available. A negligence per se finding may lead to a larger recovery with the addition of punitive damages.

What Should You Do If You Are Hurt By Someone’s Negligence?

If you were hurt because of someone else’s negligence, you should seek help from a qualified personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney will thoroughly analyze the facts of your case to determine whether you can seek compensation – either through a negligence case or by proving negligence per se.

A skilled lawyer will investigate the underlying facts of your case, from interviewing witnesses to seeking police reports and other evidence. In doing so, they will be able to build a strong claim against the defendant. This will increase the likelihood of a full recovery for your losses, including:

  • Medical bills
  • Future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Reduced earning capacity
  • Property damage
  • Scarring
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Emotional trauma
  • Pain and suffering

In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded in a personal injury case.

Studies show that people who are represented by a lawyer recover substantially more money than individuals who represent themselves. Even if an insurance adjuster tells you that they accept liability, be sure to consult with a Simpsonville, SC personal injury attorney. Whether your case involves negligence, negligence per se, or even intentional conduct, they’ll fight for your right to full compensation.

Hurt in an Accident? Our Law Firm Is Here for You.

Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye – and lead to life-changing injuries. If you have been hurt due to the negligence of another person, you are not alone. The Derrick Law Office is here to help.

Based in Simpsonville and Laurens, SC, our law firm represents clients throughout the Greenville, Mauldin, and Easley region. We offer free initial consultations, and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a South Carolina negligence attorney, call our office at 864-531-7765 or fill out our online contact form.

See also:

South Carolina Car Accident Lawsuits and Settlements

What to Do After a Car Accident in South Carolina