In a typical Maryland motorcycle accident lawsuit, the plaintiff must establish the core elements of negligence: duty, breach, causation, and damages. However, when there is a statute that governs the defendant’s conduct in a specific situation, the plaintiff may be able to take a “shortcut.” In other words, the existence of a statute can be evidence of a legal duty, and the defendant’s violation of the law can be evidence that the defendant breached that duty.
To establish a Maryland negligence per se claim, the plaintiff first needs to prove that the statute covers the defendant’s conduct. Typically, to do this, the plaintiff must show that the law was passed to prevent the defendant’s behavior that led to the accident and that it was passed to protect from the type of harm the plaintiff suffered. Once the court acknowledges that negligence per se applies, the plaintiff need only show 1.) that the defendant violated the statute; and 2.) that the defendant’s violation of the law was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. There is no requirement that the plaintiff proves the defendant’s knowledge of the statute.
For example, if the defendant causes serious injury to the plaintiff while the defendant was driving while intoxicated, the plaintiff may be able to benefit from negligence per se. In this situation, the drunk-driving statute was clearly passed to prevent drunk driving because drunk driving poses a serious risk to other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. From here, the plaintiff would only need to show that the defendant violated the statute and that the defendant’s decision to drive while under the influence was what led to the plaintiff’s injuries.