Negligence Per Se Doctrine in California Personal Injury Cases

Dog Bite Attorney
Personal Injury Cases

The term “Negligence Per Se” refers to a legal principle where negligence is presumed on the basis of a defendant’s breach of an ordinance or a statute. A California defendant party is presumed negligent when:

  • He or she violated an ordinance, a regulation, or a statute;
  • The said violation caused harm to a property or a person, or it led to the demise of a person;
  • The injury or demise resulted from an action the ordinance, regulation, or statute was designed to stop; and,
  • The one who sustained the injury or suffered the demise was one of the members of a group the ordinance, regulation or statute was meant to protect.

The Definition of Negligence

To recover compensation for damages, a plaintiff in a personal injury case must often prove that the negligence of the defendant was a major factor in causing harm to him or her.

Negligence happens when a defendant party does something which a reasonably careful individual would do, or fails to do what such an individual would, under the same circumstances. If a statute requires or prohibits a particular action, then it is taken for granted that a reasonably careful one would obey the law.

The Latin phrase “Per se” means “in itself”. So, violating a statute amounts to negligence per se, meaning it is intrinsically negligence.

Denial of the Presumption of Negligence Per Se

It is possible to rebut California’s presumption of negligence per se. Initially, to prove negligence per se, one has to show:

  • The defendant breached a statute;
  • The plaintiff themselves was part of a group the statute was meant to protect; and,
  • Due to the violation thereof, the plaintiff party suffered harm.

When the other party proves this, the defendant has to produce evidence which will support their claim that they were not actually negligent.

Even if they violated the statute, the defendant party can do this by showing they:

  • Were a kid and exercised the level of care normally exercised by people of their maturity, capacity, and intelligence in similar situations (assuming the breach did not happen during an activity that is usually done by grown-ups and that requires adult qualifications); else,
  • Did what might be expected of an individual of normal prudence, acting in similar situations, who desired to obey the law.

How It Relates to Dog Bite?

People who got injured by a dog attack, rather than a bite, will usually have to show the dog owner was negligent. However, if the dog handler or owner violated a local or state statute designed to protect public’s health or safety, then they will automatically be considered negligent under the California state’s law concerning negligence per se.