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June 26, 2015

How Traffic Violations Can Help Accident Victims Recover


Car accidents often happen because a driver breaks the law. Traffic violations arising from car accidents can often help accident victims recover for their losses in a later legal claim. This is because they often invoke a legal premise known as “negligence per se.” Before understanding what negligence per se is, it is important to understand legal negligence. Negligence occurs when a person fails to conduct himself or herself in accordance with the applicable standard of care, which generally involves the same degree of care that would be exercised by a reasonable person in similar circumstances. In order to establish negligence, a plaintiff must introduce evidence that the defendant did not act as would have a reasonable person and, in fact, acted with less care.

Negligence per se[1] is a legal doctrine that allows conduct that is in violation of the law to be deemed negligent without establishing the standard of reasonableness; the violation itself is enough. While negligence per se varies state to state, in order to successfully assert it, a plaintiff must generally establish the following four conditions:

  • That a violation of the law actually occurred
  • That the plaintiff was within the class of persons that the law seeks to protect
  • That the harm suffered was the kind of harm that the law is intended to prevent
  • That the violation of the law caused the harm to the plaintiff

Many cases involving car accidents involve negligence per se claims. When a victim can establish that the driver who was responsible for his or her accident was in violation of the law, it can often avoid litigation and result in a much higher settlement offer. As a result, anyone involved in an accident should discuss their options with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

Traffic violations can result in serious accidents

As any driver knows, there are myriad state and local laws and ordinances that pertain to motor vehicles and the way in which a person may operate one. These laws exist for a variety of reasons, one of which is to protect the public safety. Without traffic laws, the roads would be chaotic and most people would likely avoid them at all costs, making getting from place to place much more difficult.

When these laws are broken, accidents can happen. For example, if a driver comes to a complete stop at a four-way stop, he or she rightfully assumes that a driver coming from a perpendicular street who reaches the intersection after he or she did will stop and yield the right of way. If the perpendicular driver does not, a serious accident can result. In this case, the doctrine of negligence per se would likely operate to deem the driver who ran the stop sign negligent, and the victim would not be required to provide any evidence of negligence in addition to the fact that the other driver violated the law.

The fact that negligence per se can make it much easier to establish negligence means that drivers who are involved in accidents should always wait for police to arrive on the scene after an accident occurs. This will not only result in the creation a police report detailing the way in which the accident occurred, it will also likely result in a citation being issued establishing that a particular driver was in violation of the law. Furthermore, if the driver is suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol, the officers can perform a variety of field sobriety tests and chemical tests on the driver. Not only do these tests provide the officers with probable cause to place the driver under arrest, but the test results can also serve as evidence in any subsequent personal injury claim you file against the impaired driver.

There are a number of traffic violations that routinely lead to serious car accidents. Some of the most common include:

  • Speeding
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Failure to yield
  • Following too closely
  • Failure to stop at a stop sign
  • Driving against the flow of traffic
  • Failure to obey traffic signals
  • Failure to signal
  • Reckless driving
  • Texting and driving

Of course, there are many other traffic violations that may lead to a car accident, so victims should be sure to have the circumstances of their case reviewed by an experienced Philadelphia car accident attorney at The Levin Firm today.


1 https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/negligence_per_se
2 http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/CT/HTM/75/00.038..HTM

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