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What is Considered a “Reasonable Person” When it Comes to Negligence?

September 27, 2021Car Accidents

Before a party can be held legally liable for an injury or accident, the court must decide whether a “reasonable person” would have behaved similarly under the same circumstances. If the party failed to act with the degree of care that a reasonable person would have, their negligence would make them responsible for any resulting damages. 

The “Reasonable Person” Standard 

The “reasonable person” standard is used in many jurisdictions to determine fault in the form of negligence. It is based on a hypothetical individual but defines how a person should have acted or not acted to avoid causing injury to another person. A “reasonable person” is not perfect and makes mistakes. Of course, there are also unavoidable accidents in which it is impossible to tell what a person did or should have done in the critical moments. 

However, their conduct is considered prudent and legally appropriate for the situation, as they weigh the risks of engaging in certain behaviors then act with common sense and carefulness. When an individual clearly fails to act according to the “reasonable person” standard and causes harm, they can be held accountable for injuries and other losses. 

For example, a driver who speeds through an intersection with heavy pedestrian traffic did not behave as a reasonable person would have. A reasonably prudent driver would have slowed down and stopped to allow pedestrians to cross and avoid a possible accident. 

Who Decides What a Reasonable Person Would Do? 

A jury will decide what a reasonable person would do in a given situation after listening to each side’s case. A successful negligence-based claim will hinge on the plaintiff’s (victim’s) ability to prove the defendant (at-fault party) did not act reasonably. 

Part of determining reasonable conduct is whether the risk of harm was foreseeable. For example, an individual who drives while drunk knows it is illegal, and there is an increased chance of getting into an accident. That means they were aware their actions were wrong, which establishes they did not act reasonably. In contrast, let’s say a driver causes a car accident after losing consciousness due to a seizure. The jury may find that it was nearly impossible for the at-fault party to foresee the circumstances that led to another’s person’s injury if the driver had never experienced a seizure before this accident. 

Exception to the “Reasonable Person” Standard

Children are an exception to the “reasonable person” standard because they do not have the maturity and foresight to anticipate the risk of their actions. Therefore, children are not typically held to the same standard of care as adults in a personal injury case. In most cases, the courts hold them to a modified standard of care. They will compare their conduct to what a child of the same age with a similar amount of experience and knowledge would have done. 

If you or someone you love has suffered an injury due to another’s failure to act as a “reasonable person,” you may be entitled to compensation. Call (314) 370-2228 or send us a message online to schedule a free consultation. 

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