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What is 'negligence per se' and why is it important?

A previous post on this blog discussed how many truckers in Illinois are prohibited under federal law from texting and driving or even using their cell phones in most circumstances. Likewise, the state law of Illinois also prohibits all motorists from most types of cell phone use and all texting and driving.

Some Granite City residents might wonder why it matters that such behavior is against the law. After all, these are traffic violations or, in the case of truckers, administrative issues. In any event, though, a person caught texting and driving will be punished by the state via a fine or other penalty, but the state cannot directly help a car accident victim get compensation for his or her losses, assuming something along the lines of texting and driving caused the accident in the first place.

To understand the reason it is important to know whether a driver violated the laws in connection with an accident, one has to understand the negligence per se doctrine.

In general, in order to get compensation in a personal injury negligence case, like a car accident, one has to prove several things, including that the other driver had an obligation to do or not do something and the driver failed in that responsibility.

However, the negligence per se doctrine allows an injured victim to skip over establishing the other driver's failure to meet an obligation when he or she can instead show that the other driver broke a law and the law was in place to protect other motorists.

By way of example, if a victim can prove a motorist violated texting and driving rules, all the victim need do at that point is show how the texting and driving contributed to the accident. Illinois drivers automatically have an obligation both to the state and to each other to follow the traffic laws.

If an Illinois resident feels that they have been injured because another driver violated a traffic law, they may be entitled to compensation for things like their medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.

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