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What Is a "Reasonable Person" in Negligence Cases?

What Is a "Reasonable Person" in Negligence Cases?

November 5, 2023
Paul Ajlouny

Reasonable Person Standard in Negligence Law

Most personal injury cases are based on a legal theory of negligence. Broadly negligence implies that a person or company had a duty or standard of care and breached that duty, causing injury to another. Jurisdictions use a “reasonable person” standard to determine if the party breached their duty. But what is a “reasonable person” standard, and how does it apply to specific situations?

At Ajlouny Injury Law, we represent individuals who have been injured as the result of another person’s negligence or wrongdoing. Our attorneys have recovered millions on behalf of clients throughout New York City and will fight to get you the maximum damages available in your case. Injured in an accident, contact our office at (718) 233-3913 for free legal advice.

What Is the “Reasonable Person” Standard?

The reasonable person standard is an objective legal standard applied in negligence lawsuits. The test is used by a jury or trier of fact to determine whether someone acted negligently by failing to act as a reasonably prudent person would under the same conditions. 

Instead of looking at the individual person to determine negligence, they consider a fictional “reasonable person” acting in the same or similar circumstances. If the defendant did not do what a reasonable person would under the same conditions, then they may be found liable for any resulting injuries.

Who Owes a Duty to Act as a Reasonably Prudent Person?

The reasonable person standard is applied in all negligence cases. Case law has established that all people owe a duty of care to act as a “reasonable” person would in the same circumstances. 

Generally, it is up to the jury or a trier of fact to determine whether the defendant’s conduct was reasonable. It is not only a person’s conduct that may be considered unreasonable but also their failure to act.

Was the Risk of Harm Foreseeable?

One of the questions that a trier of fact may ask when applying the reasonable person standard is whether the risk of harm was foreseeable. If the risk of harm from the defendant’s conduct was foreseeable, then the defendant likely did not act as a reasonably prudent person would have and may be held liable for a plaintiff’s injuries. 

Are There Exceptions to the Reasonable Person Standard?

Children are the primary exception to the reasonable person standard. Children are not held to the same standard as a reasonable adult. In general, courts use a modified standard when dealing with children. A child is expected to act as a reasonable child of the same age, maturity, and intellect would act in the same or similar circumstances. 

However, several courts have found that when children are knowingly engaged in adult behaviors, they may be held to the standard of a reasonably prudent adult.

What happens when a person fails to act as a reasonably prudent person would?

If it can be shown that a person failed to act as a reasonably prudent person would in similar circumstances, they may be found negligent and therefore liable for any damages. 

In negligence cases, the plaintiff has the burden of showing that the defendant breached their duty by failing the reasonable person standard and that the breach of that duty resulted in their injuries.

When does the reasonable person standard not apply?

In addition to children, courts have found that in certain cases, a slightly different standard applies. For instance, a defendant may be held to a higher standard of care based on their profession or training. 

For example, in medical malpractice cases, a jury may consider whether a doctor acted as a reasonable doctor with a similar level of training and experience would have in the same or similar circumstances. Professionals with advanced training are generally held to higher standards of care.

Why You Should Hire an Attorney to Prove Negligence

Without the help of an experienced attorney, you may not be able to prove your case. In order to receive compensation for your injuries, you must be able to prove all elements of negligence. 

Not only do you need to successfully argue that the person owed you a standard of care but also that they breached that standard of care by failing to act as a reasonable person would have under the same circumstances.

It is in your best interest to hire an attorney as quickly as possible after your accident to ensure that evidence is preserved and legal deadlines are met. Insurance companies and liable parties may try to place you to blame for the accident, stating that your own negligence contributed to your injuries. An attorney can help disprove these accusations and help to secure the largest recovery possible in your case. 

Injured in an Accident? Contact Ajlouny Injury Law Today.

If you were injured as the result of another person’s negligence or wrongdoing, contact Ajlouny Injury Law today for free legal advice. Our attorneys will help you understand your right to compensation and help you hold negligent parties liable. Call (718) 233-3913 to get started.

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