Traffic Violations, Accidents, and Negligence Per Se


There’s been a traffic accident. People are seriously injured, and they need to know who caused the crash so they can hold them financially responsible for it. To that end, the insurance companies and other interested parties will investigate to determine whose negligence – a legal term for a failure to act with reasonable care – led to the collision.

In some cases, negligence is hard to pin down, as it involves debates around reasonable care, foreseeable risks, and breaches of duty. Sometimes, though, it is relatively simple. If someone’s violation of a traffic law preceded the crash, they have committed negligence per se – a Latin phrase meaning negligence “in itself.” This person would, therefore, be negligent as a matter of law, with significant implications on the course of an injury claim.

Let’s explore this dynamic in detail.

What Is Negligence? 

Negligence, as a legal concept, means that an individual or party failed to act with the same level of care that a reasonable person would use under the same circumstances and conditions. In the case of car accidents, all motorists owe others on the road a duty of care, meaning that they must act in a manner that keeps other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists relatively safe from harm.

Proving negligence can sometimes be challenging because you must demonstrate four elements:

  • The other person owed you a duty of care
  • They breached that duty of care in some way
  • You were injured
  • The other person’s breach of their duty was the cause of your injury

Proving that the careless person’s actions were counter to what a reasonable person would do under the same circumstances. Determining what counts as “reasonable” can be subjective, depending on the situation. It can take significant and compelling evidence to demonstrate negligence in some car accident cases.

What Is Negligence Per Se? 

Negligence per se provides something of a shortcut to establishing negligence, as an individual’s conduct may automatically be presumed negligent if they violated a specific state law or regulation, which led to the accident and another person’s injuries. As such, the injured party has a lower bar to clear in establishing that the other party is financially responsible for their injuries.

Common examples of situations that could trigger a personal injury case based on negligence per se can include:

  • Driving under the influence
  • Speeding
  • Running a red light or stop sign

Remember, as the injured party, the burden is still on your shoulders to prove that you suffered financial losses because of the careless individual’s actions. As such, you’ll need evidence that they did indeed violate a traffic law, which could come in the form of a guilty plea in traffic or criminal court.

New York’s No-Fault System

New York follows a no-fault model for auto insurance. Under this system, you file your initial claim with your own insurance provider, even if the other driver is at fault because they violated a traffic law. You may only file an insurance claim or lawsuit against them if the cost of your injuries exceeds your no-fault insurance policy, or if you suffer a “serious injury,” such as:

  • Dismemberment
  • Significant disfigurement
  • Fracture/broken bones
  • Permanent loss or limitation of a bodily organ or function
  • Significant but temporary limitation of a bodily organ or function
  • Loss of unborn child

Compensation Available for Injured Individuals 

No matter what, as the injured party, it is your responsibility to prove that another person’s careless actions harmed you. Estimating the value of your personal injury case can be challenging, especially when you are coping with pain and severe injuries. An experienced New York personal injury attorney can calculate your losses and establish a fair and accurate value for your case.

Although numerous factors can influence the overall value of your case, most injured individuals can seek compensation for:

  • Emotional distress
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage

The value of your compensation also depends on the cause of the accident. New York’s comparative fault laws mean if the other driver can establish your actions also contributed to the cause of the collision, your compensation can diminish by the same percentage as your responsibility for causing the crash.

New York follows a pure comparative negligence system. In a car accident lawsuit, if the other driver can prove your actions were 10 percent responsible for the crash, your compensation diminishes by 10 percent. Under pure comparative fault regulation, even a driver who is 99 percent responsible for causing a crash can seek compensation in court.

Even in cases involving negligence per se, you need an experienced attorney to help you navigate the legal system for maximum compensation for your injuries. It isn’t always enough to show negligence per se. You need compelling evidence demonstrating the extent of your financial losses and battle back against any attempts to place blame on your shoulders.

Personal Injury Lawsuit Statute of Limitations 

Unfortunately, as the injured individual, you do not have unlimited time to recover and file a personal injury lawsuit seeking compensation for your financial losses. New York gives you three years from the accident date to file your personal injury lawsuit. Failing to file a lawsuit within this time frame means your suit can face dismissal by the court. You’d then have little to no recourse for recovering the money you need. 

Contact a New York Personal Injury Attorney Immediately for Help 

 Were you injured in an accident caused by a driver who broke a traffic law? You may be able to seek compensation for your injuries and other losses. Finz & Finz, P.C. is a powerhouse legal firm with decades of experience helping accident victims recover the money they need to rebuild their lives. Contact our New York office today to arrange a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.  

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.