Arizona personal injury law has several common principles that are generally applicable even though every case is different and needs to evaluated separately. One of those principles is the idea of negligence, which has been defined as conduct which falls below the standard established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm. This standard of behavior can be created in several ways, and when it is created by a statute or regulation, it creates a legal category known as negligence per se.
More formally, negligence per se applies if someone (1) violates a statute, and (2) causes harm to a person who was (3) within the group of people intended to be protected by the statute, and (4) the harm was the sort of harm the statute was created to prevent. If any one of these four elements is absent, the person who violated the statute is not negligent per se, though they may still be negligent.
In nearly every Arizona personal injury case, it is necessary for an injured person (the plaintiff) to prove that the person responsible for their injuries (the defendant) acted unreasonably. If the plaintiff can establish the four elements of negligence per se, however, the law presumes that the defendant was negligent.
To see when negligence per se could apply, consider two hypothetical Arizona personal injury cases. In Case A, a child is riding his bicycle on the sidewalk in a town that has a regulation which restricts the sidewalks to pedestrian traffic only. The boy strikes a pole owned by the city that was in an unsafe place and suffers serious injuries. In this case, if the boy sues the city, he should expect the court to rule that he was comparatively negligent per se because he violated the town's regulation (element 1), caused harm (element 2), to a person who was meant to be protected by the statute, which in this case would include bicyclists because the idea of the regulation was that the sidewalks are safe only for foot traffic (element 3) and the bicycle crash was the sort of accident the rule was meant to prevent (element 4).
In Case B, a rental car agency rents a car to a driver whom the agency knows does not have a driver's license, in violation of a state statute. That driver later drives drunk and injures a third party. In a lawsuit by the third party against the rental agency, the court would probably rule that the agency was not negligent per se. Although they did violate the law (element 1) and, at least debatably, cause harm (element 2), it's unlikely the victim can prove elements 3 and 4. The purpose of the statute prohibiting renting a car to someone without a valid license was to keep unlicensed drivers off the road, not to ensure that people driving stayed sober behind the wheel. Of course, it might still be that the agency was unreasonable in renting a car to someone they knew had no license to drive, in which case the victim could prevail.
It is crucial to understand that Arizona personal injury law with regard to what constitutes negligence per se is very particularized. It is important to have the guidance of an Arizona personal injury lawyer with extensive experience in all kinds of accidents, to assure that you get the compensation you deserve. To speak with a professional attorney, call Zachar Law Firm at (602) 494-4800 or visit www.zacharassociates.com.