Texas Negligence Per Se Causes of Action
Most personal injury cases are filed under an ordinary negligence cause of action. That is to say, the injured party asks the jury to find the wrongdoer liable on the basis that he or she acted unreasonably in some way resulting in an injury. But as you can imagine, whether or not someone's conduct was reasonable is open to interpretation. As such, when a jury contemplates someone's wrongdoing in terms of negligence, they can get off-target.
But sometimes courts let a plaintiff frame a wrongdoer's misconduct as a matter of negligence per se, rather than submit it as a matter of plain old negligence. The beauty of a negligence per se allegation is that it allows you to simplify the decision-making for the jury, which certainly favors the plaintiff. It takes the complex, open-to-interpretation concept of negligence, and replaces it with something much easier to ponder.
In this article we'll look at the common types of misconduct that Texas courts have allowed plaintiffs to submit to the jury as negligence per se.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- What are common negligence per se causes of action under Texas law?
- How does a negligence per se case work?
- How can an attorney help with my negligence per se case?
How jury charges work.
To understand how negligence per se causes of action benefit a plaintiff, you must first understand how juries frame their conclusions. At the end of any personal injury trial, the jury deliberates and fills out a form called a "jury charge." The jury charge is usually a questionnaire that asks the jury things like, "Does the evidence show that the accused did X, Y, or Z?" Naturally, the wording on the jury charge can have a big impact on the outcome of a case, and that's exactly how a negligence per se allegation benefits plaintiffs.
When you ask a jury whether or not they find a defendant negligent, it's a tricky question for them to answer. However, when the court deems it appropriate, an injured plaintiff can submit the case to the jury as a matter of negligence per se. The benefit of doing so is that it frames the questions on the jury charge in much simpler terms, effectively reducing the entire legal matter down to two questions:
- Did the defendant violate the law in question?
- Was the violation a the primary cause of the plaintiff's injuries?
If the jury answers yes to these questions, you can forget about their interpretation of an amorphous standard of reasonable behavior. The whole thing becomes "did he do the bad thing, yes or no?" Again, this greatly benefits the plaintiff in the vast majority of cases.
However, judges are reluctant to let plaintiffs submit a claim as a negligence per se matter, unless certain criteria are met. You can read more about this process on our negligence per se overview page, but, suffice it to say, not all wrongful conduct can be framed in terms of negligence per se, which brings us to the point of this article. In the next section, we'll list all of the different types of wrongful conduct that Texas courts have already deemed appropriate to submit as a matter of negligence per se.
Common Negligence Per Se Arguments
If a wrongdoer violates any of the following laws, Texas courts have deemed it appropriate to file suit under a negligence per se cause of action:
- TX Trans Code §521.458 - Duty not to allow an unlicensed driver to operate a vehicle.
- TX Trans Code §544.007 - Duty of a driver facing a steady red traffic signal to stop and not enter an intersection until an indication to proceed is displayed.
- TX Trans Code §545.051(a) - Duty to drive on the right-hand side of the road.
- TX Trans Code §545.056 - Duty not to drive to the left side of a roadway when approaching within 100 feet of an intersection.
- TX Trans Code §545.151 - Duty to stop at a controlled highway intersection and yield to vehicles entering from the driver's right side.
- TX Trans Code §545.420 - Duty not to participate in a race on state highways.
- TX Trans Code §547.504(b),(c) - Duty of a truck driver to display warning lamps when the vehicle is disables on the side of the highway.
- TX Trans Code §552.008 - Duty to exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian on any roadway, to give warning by sounding the horn when necessary, and to exercise proper precaution when observing any child of any obviously confused or incapacitated person on the roadway.
- TX Trans Code §552.010(b) - Duty to take necessary precautions to avoid injuring or endangering a pedestrian who is guided by a support dog or a cane If the pedestrian is crossing or attempting to cross the road.
- TX Trans Code §521.459(b) - Duty of employer not to knowingly allow an unlicensed person to operate a vehicle in the course of employment.
- 18 U.S.C. §922(b), (d) - Duty not to sell handguns or ammunition to certain classes of persons.
- TX Penal Code §43.25 - Duty not to employ, authorize, or induce child to engage in sexual conduct.
- TX Penal Code §43.251 - Duty not to employ minor in sexually oriented business.
- Dallas Ord. §27.11(a)(6) - Duty of the owner of a vacant building to keep doors and windows securely closed.
- Houston Unif. Build. Code ch. 1, div 1, §111(a) (1993), not at Houston Ord. 2010-1016, §L102.1 - Duty of owners or persons in possession or control of a building to have at least two separate exists for every floor above the first story used for human occupancy.
- Tex. Transp. Code §191.001 - Duty of a property owner to maintain a minimum clearance for structures built over railroad tracks.
Looking at a Few Examples
With the above codes in mind, let's look at a couple examples of cases that would likely constitute negligence per se.
Let's say there's a driver pulling up to a red light. It's late at night, and he's pretty sure no one is coming so he decides to pull through without stopping. He then hits a motorist driving through the intersection with the green light. The negligent driver is guilty of negligence per se.
There's a stretch of state highway near your house that's not typically congested with traffic. One night some of your friends decide to race down the stretch and cause an accident in the process. This violates statute and constitutes negligence per se.
These are just some examples of the kinds of situations that are deemed negligence per se.
How Grossman Law Offices Can Help
Texas attorney Michael Grossman has over 25 years of experience handling negligence claims in the state of Texas. We know this area of the law almost better than anyone, and we're happy to answer whatever questions you may have regarding your claim. If you'd like to talk to one of our attorneys, we are available to you by phone 24/7. Whenever is most convenient for you, we'll be here. Give us a call at (855) 326-0000 to put us to work on your claim.
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