Negligence and negligence per se are two different legal standards used in personal injury cases. Each standard has different elements that you must prove in order to convince a jury that you deserve compensation for your injuries.

The negligence per se standard may be used when a person broke a law, resulting in injury to another person. The general negligence standard may be used in other injury cases, even if no statute was violated.

General Negligence

The general negligence standard has four elements:

  • A duty is owed
  • There is a breach of duty
  • The conduct causes injury
  • There are damages


The most common standard is the duty to take ordinary care under the circumstances. This general duty applies to everyone in all situations.

Drivers have a duty to avoid causing accidents. Property owners have a duty to keep their property safe so that guests won’t be injured.

This standard is fact-based. Its application will depend on the specific circumstances of your case.

Breach of Duty

A duty is breached when a person fails to use ordinary care. This may also be stated as saying they failed to act as a reasonable person should under the circumstances.

For example, a person who fails to look before changing lanes and causes a motorcycle accident has breached their duty. A reasonable person would check for motorcyclists (or other hazards) before changing lanes.


You’ll need to prove two types of causation: cause-in-fact and proximate causation. Cause-in-fact follows the “but for” test. But for the person’s actions, would the injury have occurred?

Proximate causation focuses on the foreseeability of harm. If the negligent conduct was too disconnected from the injury, there may be no proximate causation. This sometimes occurs when there is a chain reaction involving several independent events between the negligent conduct and the actual injury.


Damages could include medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering. A court can only remedy a situation if you have actual damages to claim.

Negligence Per Se

Negligence per se means “negligence in itself”. This legal doctrine applies to certain cases where a person breaks a law and causes injury to another party.

To show that negligence per se applies, you must show that:

  • The defendant violated the law and caused your injuries
  • Your injuries are of the type the law was designed to prevent
  • You are the type of person who the law was designed to protect

For example, Georgia has a hands-free driving law that prevents a person from holding a phone while operating a vehicle. This law is designed to avoid car accidents caused by distracted drivers. The law protects other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

If a person causes an accident with another vehicle while texting and driving, negligence per se may apply. They broke a state law and caused an injury the statute was designed to prevent. They also injured another driver, who the law was designed to protect.

Another example would be the Georgia dog bite law. If a person fails to leash their dog in an area where it is required by local law, they’ve violated the state dog bite law. If the dog then bites a person, the doctrine of negligence per se may be appropriate.

Defenses to Negligence Per Se

Negligence per se shifts the burden of proof to the defendant. However, the defendant may still present defenses to show that they shouldn’t be liable for any injuries.

They would typically have to show that they broke the law for good reason or that following the law would have caused even worse injuries. This may apply in certain emergency situations or where the law is not clear about what conduct is prohibited.

If negligence per se applies to your case, it could shift the burden of proof to the defendant. Consult with a personal injury lawyer to discuss negligence per se and how it could impact your claim for compensation.

Contact the Personal Injury Lawyers In the Central Savannah River Area at Hawk Law Group for Legal Assistance Today

For more information, please contact the personal injury lawyers at Hawk Law Group at our nearest location to schedule a free consultation today.

We serve throughout the Central Savannah River Area and its surrounding areas:

Hawk Law Group – Augusta, GA
338 Telfair St, Augusta, GA 30901, United States
(706) 722-3500

Hawk Law Group – Evans, GA
4384 River Watch Pkwy, Evans, GA 30809, United States
(706) 863-6500

Hawk Law Group – Thomson, GA
146 Railroad St A, Thomson, GA 30824, United States
(706) 361-0350

Hawk Law Group – Waynesboro, GA
827 Liberty St, Waynesboro, GA 30830, United States
(706) 437-9122

Hawk Law Group – Aiken County, SC
156 Laurens St NW, Aiken, SC 29801, United States
(803) 226-9089

We also serve in Edgefield County, SC.