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“Negligence Per Se” In California Personal Injury Cases


Negligence per se is a legal principle; it states that a person is presumed to have acted in a legally negligent manner if they violate a law and injure someone who was intended to be protected by that same law. The principle of negligence per se generally arises in personal injury and wrongful death cases.

Here are five important points you need to understand:

  • Evidence Code 669 is the California statute that outlines the doctrine of negligence per se.
  • Negligence per se is a presumption that can be challenged or countered by the defendant once it is established.
  • Defendants can rebut this presumption by demonstrating that their violation of the statute was reasonable given the circumstances.
  • Negligence per se is frequently invoked in car accident cases involving violations of traffic laws.
  • Res ipsa loquitur is a similar but distinct legal doctrine that establishes negligence using circumstantial evidence.

What are The Four Elements of Negligence Per Se

To establish a claim of negligence per se in California, the plaintiff must demonstrate the following elements:

  • Violation of a Safety Statute: The defendant must have violated a statute or regulation that was enacted to ensure safety.
  • Causation of Injury: The plaintiff must show that the defendant’s violation of the statute directly caused the plaintiff’s injury.
  • Harm within the Scope of the Statute: The plaintiff must demonstrate that the harm suffered is the type of harm the statute was designed to prevent.
  • Membership in the Protected Class: The plaintiff must be a member of the class of individuals that the statute intended to protect.

While the first two elements are typically determined by a jury based on the factual evidence presented, the judge decides the last two elements as a matter of law.

In a negligence case, establishing the standard of care of the wrongdoer is a crucial element. This refers to the level of care that a reasonable person would take to prevent injury to others. When the doctrine of negligence per se is applied, it means that the court recognizes the conduct described in a statute as the standard of care for a reasonable person in those specific circumstances. For instance, if one of the drivers involved in a car accident was found to be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it could be considered negligence per se.


By applying negligence per se, the court accepts the violation of a relevant statute as evidence of the defendant’s failure to meet the required standard of care. This allows for a more straightforward determination of liability in certain cases where a specific statute or regulation was violated, such as laws related to impaired driving.

What is an Example of Negligence Per Se?

An example of negligence per se can be seen in the context of a car accident where one of the drivers involved is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In many jurisdictions, driving under the influence is a violation of laws specifically enacted to ensure public safety and prevent accidents. Violation of these laws establishes a breach of the duty of care owed to other drivers and pedestrians on the road. As a result, if an accident occurs due to the impaired driver’s actions, they may be held liable under the doctrine of negligence per se.

Please note that this is just one example, and there may be various other instances where negligence per se can apply depending on the specific laws and regulations of a jurisdiction and the circumstances of each case.

Negligence Per Se Is A Rebuttable Presumption

According to Evidence Code Section 669, the presumption of negligence can be countered by presenting evidence that demonstrates any of the following:

  • The defendant’s violation of the law was reasonable considering the circumstances.
  • The defendant was a child and acted with the same level of care as a person of similar age in similar circumstances.
  • The violation was reasonable given the defendant’s disability.
  • The defendant made reasonable efforts to comply with the law.
  • Compliance with the law would have posed a greater risk of harm than noncompliance.
  • The defendant was facing an emergency that was not caused by their own misconduct.

What Are The Defenses in Negligence Per Se Cases?

In addition to countering a presumption of per se negligence in California, defendants have the option to use various defense strategies to challenge these allegations including:

  • No Violation of a Statute, Law, or Ordinance: The defendant can dispute the claim of negligence per se by contending that they did not actually violate the specific statute, law, or ordinance that the plaintiff alleges they contravened.
  • Lack of Protected Class Membership: A defense can challenge negligence per se allegations by asserting that the plaintiff is not a member of the class of individuals that the statute was intended to protect. This argument aims to undermine the requirement for the plaintiff to be within the protected class to establish negligence per se.
  • Absence of Causal Connection: Another defense strategy may involve disputing that the defendant’s violation of the statute was the actual cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. By challenging the causation element, the defense seeks to weaken the plaintiff’s case for negligence per se.

It is important to note that the viability and success of these defenses depend on the specific circumstances and evidence surrounding the case.

Negligence vs. Negligence Per Se California

Negligence per se is a legal doctrine that establishes negligence based on the violation of a statute or regulation. In California, if a person’s actions violate a statute or regulation designed to prevent harm and that violation results in injury to another person, it may be considered negligence per se. This means that the defendant is presumed to be negligent, and the focus shifts to proving causation and damages rather than establishing a breach of duty.

On the other hand, negligence refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care that results in harm or injury to another person. In a negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove four essential elements: duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. The defendant is held liable if their conduct falls below the standard of care expected in similar situations and causes harm to the plaintiff.

Negligence per se is not applicable in all situations, and there are specific requirements for its application. These requirements include that the violated statute must be intended to protect the class of individuals that the plaintiff belongs to, and the harm suffered must be the type the statute was designed to prevent.


If you are facing a legal situation involving negligence or negligence per se, it is advisable to consult with a qualified attorney who can provide guidance based on the specifics of your case and help protect your rights.

Negligence Per Se Vs Res Ipsa Loquitur

Res ipsa loquitur and negligence per se are both legal doctrines that aid in establishing a breach of duty in certain negligence cases. The former allows negligence to be inferred from the circumstances surrounding an accident, while the latter allows it to be inferred from a violation of law. These doctrines have broad applications, enabling causes of action to proceed even in the absence of direct evidence proving negligence.

Under res ipsa loquitur, a judge or jury may infer negligent conduct when:

  • The facts indicate that an accident occurred, and
  • There is no other reasonable explanation for the accident, except for the defendant’s actions.

To successfully utilize res ipsa loquitur in California, three elements must be established:

  • The accident or injury would not typically have occurred without negligent conduct.
  • The object or incident that caused the injury was under the defendant’s exclusive control.
  • The harm was not a result of any actions taken by the injured party.

If these elements are proven, the defendant has the opportunity to demonstrate that they were not responsible. Failure to do so weakens their defense against the claim.

Tabibnia Law Firm Can Fight For You

If you find yourself dealing with a personal injury or wrongful death case in California, it is crucial to understand these legal principles. Seeking guidance from an experienced attorney is highly recommended.

Cyrus Tabibnia, a criminal defense lawyer with over 18 years of experience, leads Tabibnia Law Firm. With his extensive knowledge and expertise, he can provide the necessary legal representation to navigate through negligence per se and res ipsa loquitur cases. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Cyrus Tabibnia for assistance with your legal needs.

Contact Cyrus Tabibnia at Tabibnia Law Firm today at 866-713-2159 and entrust your case to a skilled professional who strives to protect your rights.

Disclaimer: This blog post provides general information and should not be used as legal advice. If you require specific legal guidance related to warrants in California, it is advisable to consult a qualified attorney.

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia, also known as Shahrooz Tabibnia, is a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, California. With a law degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, he has been practicing law since 2005 and holds license #237348. With over 18 years of experience, Cyrus specializes in various misdemeanor and felony criminal Law including Domestic Violence, Theft Crime, Sex crime, DUI & DWI, Personal Injury, Employment Law, and Cannabis & Marijuana Drugs Law. Being bilingual in English, Persian, and Spanish enables him to effectively communicate with a diverse range of clients. From 2014 to 2018, he served as a board member of the Iranian American Bar Association. An expungement attorney in Los Angeles who can assist you in clearing your criminal record in the state of California.

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