The Reasonable Person Standard
In negligence claims, the actions of the defendant is often compared to what a reasonable person may do in the same situation. The legal term for this is the reasonable person standard, and it is one of the tools used to prove negligence in civil lawsuits. If the defendant did not act as one would expect a reasonable person to, then they were negligent in the eyes of the law.
What Is the Reasonable Person Standard?
The reasonable person standard is a completely hypothetical way of judging how society expects people to act in situations. It is applied equally to situations and does not take into account knowledge or experience level. For example, a reasonable person would stop at a red light and therefore, every driver, whether they are driving for the first time or an experienced driver, is expected to stop at a red light.
The reasonable person standard allows for human error. Mistakes happen, and sometimes mistakes can cause injuries. The reasonable person standard determines if the mistake was reasonable or if it was not. In some cases, multiple parties may be negligent when the reasonable person standard is applied. For example, the lights are out at an intersection, and it is causing traffic problems. The government agency in charge of the traffic lights is a liable party if an accident occurs, but if a driver does not act as a reasonable person would, then they may also be found liable. A reasonable person would slow down and take care when approaching and entering the intersection; they wouldn’t just blow through it and hope for the best.
Does the Reasonable Person Standard Apply to Children?
No, children are judged by a modified version of the reasonable person standard that takes into account their age and life experience. This modified version of the reasonable person standard acknowledges that even kids of the same age may have been taught different things and are unaware of societal rules unless they have been taught. However, if the child is doing an adult activity, like driving, then they will be held to the reasonable person standard. This is because the child would have learnt all of the rules and expectations of driving when receiving their license, and they need to operate with a high level of care to protect pedestrians and other road users.
What Does the Reasonable Person Standard Mean For My Case?
The plaintiff must prove that the defendant did not act as a reasonable person is expected to in order to prove that the defendant was negligent. This would prove that the defendant knew that they owed a duty of care to other road users and would reasonably be aware that their actions could cause harm.
In order to use the reasonable person standard, the plaintiff must establish what a reasonable person would have done in the same situation. The proposed action a reasonable person would take must have been sufficient to prevent the accident. Therefore, the plaintiff can prove that the accident would have been prevented if the defendant used reasonable care.