If you were hurt in an accident that was someone else’s fault, it’s important to talk with a lawyer. Personal injury claims can be based on several theories. There are many ways you can try and prove the other person or business is liable for your injuries. Your case might be based on a traditional negligence claim, or it might not. An experienced personal injury attorney will thoroughly investigate the cause of your injuries and advise you on the best argument for holding the other person responsible under the law. It might be that the other party’s violation of a statute gives you the right to sue, is evidence of negligence, or establishes their negligence entirely.
To learn more about statutory liability in personal injury cases, talk with Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. as soon as possible. You can schedule a free consultation by calling (312) 236-2900 or using our online form.
When you’re injured in an accident, you might try to prove the other person is liable based on ordinary negligence. You’ll give the insurer or court evidence of how they didn’t act like a reasonable person under the circumstances. You’ll show that the person’s careless conduct caused your injuries.
But there also are cases where trying to prove ordinary negligence with direct evidence isn’t possible or practical. Under these circumstances, your lawyer might focus on using circumstantial evidence to prove implied negligence (res ipsa loquitur). You might show that it’s clear you wouldn’t have been hurt if the other party hadn’t been careless, and there aren’t any other explanations for your injuries that make sense.
Or, your lawyer might focus on the other party’s violation of a statute that was meant to protect you. The defendant’s violation of a statute might create statutory liability, provide evidence of negligence, or fulfill the elements of negligence per se.
If you argue negligence per se in court, you don’t have to show the defendant’s behavior wasn’t reasonable. Instead, you have to establish four elements:
One of the most common cases involving negligence per se is drunk driving accidents. A driving under the influence statute is meant to protect the public from harm. That’s element one. DUI statutes have punishments, including jail time, probation, fines, and more. That’s element two. If you were injured or lost a loved one in a drunk driving crash, you were harmed in a way the statute sought to prevent. That’s element three. If you were another motorist or pedestrian, you were part of the group of people DUI statutes try to protect. That’s the fourth and final element of a negligence per se claim.
It’s important to know that not all statutory violations give you the right to argue negligence per se. In fact, most won’t. Instead, the fact that the other party broke the law is prima facie evidence of negligence.
What is prima facie evidence? Prima facie is Latin for “at first sight.” It means the evidence itself is enough to establish a fact. Violation of the statute is enough to show the defendant was negligent. But the defendant is allowed to refute this conclusion. They have the right to submit evidence showing that despite the violation, they acted reasonably.
In Illinois, a violation of a statute supports negligence per se argument only if the legislature intended for the law to impose strict liability. Strict liability means a party is liable for your injuries whether or not they acted unreasonably. We have to look at what the lawmakers wanted the law to do to determine whether we can argue negligence per se, or whether we must use the violation as prima facie evidence of negligence. Whether the law provides for strict liability might have been decided by an Illinois court before, or we might be addressing something new.
A statute might give you a cause of action because of the other party’s conduct. This is a type of statutory liability that’s different from negligence per se or prima facie evidence of negligence. The Illinois Dram Shop Act is a good example. What if you were injured in a car crash caused by a drunk driver. Your lawyer’s investigation might uncover that the driver had recently left a bar where they were served alcohol. The Dram Shop law gives you the right to file a lawsuit against that business. The law gives you this right because your circumstances match those set out in the statute. You aren’t arguing the bar was negligent.
This is different than negligence per se. Under negligence per se, you’re arguing the defendant’s violation of a certain statute is proof of negligence. But the statute itself doesn’t give you a right to sue. Under a statutory cause of action, it’s the statute that says you have the right to file a lawsuit against a certain person or business.
Not all personal injury cases should be based on ordinary negligence. It’s important to consult a personal injury attorney in Illinois who knows there are different ways to prove negligence and other theories of liability. Without a lawyer’s help, you might not establish the strongest possible argument for the other party’s liability and why you should be compensated. But when you work with us, you can be confident that our team will thoroughly investigate the accident, carefully review all the evidence, and build you a persuasive case.
To talk with us, call (312) 236-2900 or submit your information through our online form. We offer free consultations and accept personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. You don’t pay us unless we win.