What Is the Difference Between Negligence and Negligence Per Se?

If you were injured in an accident and someone else was at fault, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries through a claim of negligence or negligence per se. While these two terms seem quite similar, they are two distinct legal causes of action and will require the plaintiff to prove different facts.

Understanding the difference between negligence and negligence per se can help you understand your case and your options for moving forward. Once you have a better understanding of these two concepts, reach out to our experienced personal injury lawyers in Dallas, TX, to discuss your legal rights and options. 


Acting negligently means failing to act the way a reasonable person would under the same or similar circumstances. A “reasonable person” is typically expected to exercise ordinary care and caution.

Proving that someone acted negligently requires a significant burden of proof. To prove that the defendant was negligent, you must prove the following four elements:

  • The defendant owed you a duty of care, which is a legal obligation to adhere to a certain standard of care.
  • The defendant breached the duty of care, which normally means showing that they acted unreasonably.
  • You suffered an injury or some other type of loss.
  • The defendant’s actions were the actual and proximate cause of your injuries.

You must prove each of these elements by a preponderance of the evidence, which means your evidence must show that your claim against the defendant is more likely than not true. Put another way, you must present sufficient evidence to establish a 51% or greater chance that the defendant was negligent.

Many negligence claims will hinge on whether the defendant’s actions were unreasonable. This can be difficult, as a wide variety of behaviors may be reasonable in a given situation. To establish what was reasonable under the circumstances, you may need to present evidence from expert witnesses explaining professional standards or common behaviors. 

Negligence Per Se

Unlike ordinary negligence, negligence per se is a legal claim involving the violation of a specific law. Essentially, the injured plaintiff is arguing that the defendant’s negligence is obvious or may be assumed because they violated the law. The lawmakers who crafted the law already established what behavior was reasonable—or not.

The laws underlying a negligence per se claim often relate to public safety, such as speed limits, blood alcohol content levels, building codes, and consumer product safety requirements.  

Proving negligence per se may be a lesser burden than proving ordinary negligence, making it easier for the plaintiff to recover compensation for their injuries. Once the plaintiff establishes that the defendant broke the law, they are not required to show that the defendant’s conduct was unreasonable. 

Thus, it is usually simpler to prove a breach of the duty of care under a theory of negligence per se. You must still prove that the defendant’s conduct caused your injuries by a preponderance of the evidence.

How An Experienced Dallas Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help With Your Negligence or Negligence Per Se Claim

While proving negligence per se may be more straightforward than proving negligence, it can still be tricky. An experienced Dallas personal injury lawyer will help you determine which cause of action is right in your case—negligence or negligence per se—and will help you prove the required elements. They will fight for you to recover compensation for all of your damages, regardless of the cause of action that applies in your case. 

Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in Dallas, TX

If you’ve been injured in an accident in Dallas, Texas, and need legal help, contact our Dallas personal injury lawyers at Jay Murray Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation today.

Jay Murray Personal Injury Lawyers
2512 State St,
Dallas, TX 75201
(214) 855-1420