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What is ‘negligence per se’ in a Nevada drunk driving accident?

Drunk driving has been a social problem in the United States for about as long as automobiles have been around. Because of the country’s penchant for equating driving with independence and freedom, and the history of the manufacture, sale and consumption of intoxicating beverages, especially as a form of celebration, the operation of motor vehicles while drunk also has long been a common event throughout the country. Over the last several decades, however, the dangers of drunk driving have become more and more apparent. Moreover, the political will to curb such behavior has grown such that every state has laws penalizing people criminally for driving will intoxicating.

Criminal penalties are not the only way to deter drunk driving, however. The use of civil law to compensate victims for damages they suffer at the hands of an intoxicated driver has resulted in many monetary awards against those who have broken the laws. While civil and criminal cases are distinct and separate proceedings, there can be some interplay between them when it comes to proving negligence in cases where a Nevada resident is injured by a drunk driver.

This is due to the legal concept of ‘negligence per se.’ Per se is a Latin phrase meaning “in itself.” In legal cases, a plaintiff normally would have to show evidence of a duty, breach of that duty, causation and damages to recover under a negligence theory. However, when an individual has been convicted of violating a statute, such as the one against drunk driving, this process can get a little easier. As long as the victim is the kind of person meant to be protected by the criminal law, violation of the criminal statute can be considered evidence of negligence as a matter of law.

Because drunk driving statutes are generally meant to protect other people on the roads from intoxicated drivers, a drunk driving conviction will usually fit this definition when an accident has been caused by the drunk driver. Of course, even in these cases, the victim will have to show he or she was injured and that such was caused by the defendant. Because this area of the law can be complicated, those who have been hurt in a drunk driving accident may wish to consider contacting an experienced Nevada injury lawyer.


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