Running a Stop Sign: A Recognized Negligence Per Se Argument in Texas Car Accident Cases
Car accidents happen all too frequently and most of the time they're caused by someone making a careless mistake. One such careless act is when a driver runs a stop sign, injuring someone as a result. It goes without saying that running a stop sign is an act of negligence, but Texas courts have determined that it's more than just run-of-the-mill negligence, it's actually negligence per se.
- Which law does running a stop sign violate in Texas?
- What does a "per se" argument mean in a car accident?
- How does hiring an attorney help me in a car accident?
What do we mean by "negligence per se?" This type of negligence is pretty different from ordinary negligence (read more about traditional negligence here). A negligence per se allegation argues that the act done by the defendant violated a statute, causing harm to someone while doing so, whereas ordinary negligence is not he violation of a statute, rather it's a violation of an interpretive legal principal based on the social contract. Again, negligence per se is a more black-and-white type of negligence.
Well, if a victim's been injured by someone running a stop sign, they can most likely bring forward a negligence per se car accident lawsuit against the driver, gaining compensation for their injuries if a jury finds the defendant guilty. The benefit of running a stop sign being treated as negligence per se rather than ordinary negligence is that it's a shortcut to winning your case. When a jury is asked whether or not someone violated an interpretive legal concept, as you can imagine, their answer may be equally interpretive. But when the question submitted to the jury is something simple like, "Did the defendant run the stop sign?" the jury is more likely to rule in your favor. To put it another way, negligence per se arguments take the issue out of the theoretical, interpretive realm, and give the jury the opportunity to simply say that the defendant is more or less liable by default since they did a specific bad thing.
What does the statute say exactly about running a stop sign?
Like we said, negligence per se is not an allegation that one person caused harm to another person by violating the reasonable person standard (that is actually in its most traditional sense), but instead, it is that they caused harm to another person by violating written statute. Here's what the statute on running a stop sign says:
Texas Transportation Code, Sec. 545.151. VEHICLE APPROACHING OR ENTERING INTERSECTION.
(a) An operator approaching an intersection:
(1) shall stop, yield, and grant immediate use of the intersection:
(A) in obedience to an official traffic-control device, including a stop sign or yield right-of-way sign; or
(B) if a traffic-control signal is present but does not display an indication in any of the signal heads; and
(2) after stopping, may proceed when the intersection can be safely entered without interference or collision with traffic using a different street or roadway.
It's pretty clear, right? One should obey the traffic-control device that is a stop sign. Unfortunately, we all know this is far from reality. Reckless drivers violate this law all the time.
Examples of Running a Stop Sign as Negligence Per Se
Not only is running a stop sign obviously a violation of the law, but it is also an example of negligence per se, as established by past court cases. Let's discuss an example. Say Steve was injured because John ran the stop sign. John hit Steve, and Steve gets a lawyer to help him seek compensation for damages from John. That lawyer will argue to the court that the offense was negligence per se. He will present evidence that shows John actually ran the stop sign, and that in doing so, he caused Steve's injuries. This might include evidence from the scene itself, video tape from nearby buildings that recorded John running the stop sign, and even vehicle data that shows John did not slow down at all while approaching the sign.
An attorney that knows what they're doing will be able to clearly show the judge and jury that the defendant John ran the stop sign and that was the direct cause of Steve's injuries.
The jury charge will not be a traditional negligence question, i.e. "Did John act negligently?" But instead, they'll be asked a more black-and-white question, that addresses the statute violation, "Did John violate statute in running the stop sign?" John was negligent per se by virtue of the fact that he disobeyed Texas law.
Why You Need An Experienced Car Accident Attorney for Your Negligence Per Se Case
Even though it was obvious that the defendant running a stop sign was the cause of your injuries, and even though the jury charge asks a much simpler question with a clear-cut answer, the defendant will fight tooth and nail to sway the jury. Your opponent may try to say that the stop sign was actually knocked over, therefore it wasn't a "working" traffic-control device. They'll try plenty of dirty tactics to avoid liability.
Hire our firm for your case. We know what negligence per se is, and what it isn't. We know the statute, and so we definitely know when its been violated. In our 25 years, we've seen almost every scenario you can think of. So, don't attempt to handle your negligence per se case on your own. We're ready to help, if you're ready to talk: (855) 326-0000.
Related Articles for Further Reading:
To learn more about other types of negligence per se, read the following articles:
- Running a stoplight
- Negligent entrustment of vehicle to a driver without a license
- Someone was driving on the left side of the road
- Street racing