Jason Stephens | December 24, 2020 | Personal Injury
Texas personal injury cases are generally based on allegations of negligence. A person’s negligent actions result in an accident or incident that causes another person’s injury or death.
Before you can recover compensation for a personal injury claim, you must prove the legal elements of negligence. Each element requires direct evidence. However, what happens when the evidence is circumstantial?
In claims involving a crime, you might be able to prove that the other party is financially liable for your injuries and damages under the legal theory of negligence per se.
What Do You Need to Prove to Win a Personal Injury Case in Texas?
For most personal injury claims, you must prove the four legal elements of negligence. The legal elements of a negligence case are:
Duty of Care
The party who injured you must owe you a legal duty of care. A duty of care is the requirement to act in a manner that does not place others in danger of harm or injury.
For example, all motorists have a duty of care to operate their vehicles in a manner that does not increase the risk of a car accident. Likewise, property owners have a duty of care under premises liability laws to take reasonable steps to prevent people from being injured on their property.
Breach of Duty
The second element is a breach of duty. The person’s conduct did not meet the acceptable standard of care for a specific situation. For example, a person causes a motorcycle accident because that person was driving while intoxicated.
Another example of a breach of duty might exist when a dog owner fails to follow leash laws or allows their dog to roam freely, and the dog attacks a child. A construction company might fail to post warning signs and barricades to warn people of potential dangers.
After establishing that the party breached the duty of care, you must prove that the breach was a direct and proximate cause of your injury. For instance, a trucking company fails to check a person’s driving record before allowing the person to operate a truck. The person has a history of DUI and a suspended license.
The trucking company may be liable for a truck accident because of its failure to perform adequate background checks resulted in a known DUI offender being behind the wheel of a commercial truck.
The last element to prove for a negligence claim is that you sustained damages because of the person’s negligent acts. The types of damages in a personal injury claim may include physical injuries, financial losses, and emotional distress.
Proving negligence can be a complicated process. Personal injury lawyers may retain experts, accident reconstructionists, and professional investigators to gather evidence that proves the other party is responsible for your injuries.
However, there are some cases in which direct evidence may not be available. In those cases, your attorney may utilize negligence per se to prove the other party is legally liable for your damages.
What is Negligence Per Se?
Negligence per se creates a presumption of negligence when someone breaks a law enacted to protect the general public. The law must state that specific conduct is prohibited. There must also be a criminal penalty for breaking the law, such as a fine, probation, or jail time.
Examples of laws that are designed to protect the general public include laws against speeding or drunk driving. Leash laws for dog and code violations for commercial buildings are other examples of laws enacted to protect the general public.
A personal injury claim involving negligence per se requires that you prove:
- You were injured
- The other party or person violated a law
- The law was enacted to prevent the type of accident or injury sustained
If you prove the legal elements of a negligence per se claim, it creates the presumption of negligence. The other party has the right to prevent evidence refuting the presumption of negligence. A jury would decide whether the facts of the case support your claim or the other person’s defense.
Deadlines for Filing Personal Injury Claims in Texas
Regardless of whether you file a negligence claim or a negligence per se claim, you have just two years from the date of your injury to file your claim. There are a few exceptions to the statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Texas.
Because it takes time to investigate and gather evidence proving negligence claims, it is best to consult a personal injury lawyer as soon as you can. Waiting too long to seek legal advice could result in losing your legal right to hold the person responsible for your injury liable for your financial losses and other damages.