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What Is a Reasonable Person Standard in a Negligence Claim?

The idea of a “reasonable person” is an objective legal concept often used in injury and negligence cases. Learn more about the reasonable person standard in a negligence claim to prepare for your case. Rossman Law Group is here to demystify the legal process and work with you to achieve justice.

A Reasonable Person Defined

The reasonable person standard is an objective, hypothetical concept applied to defendants in injury and negligence cases. The jurors in a negligence trial will hold the defendant’s actions up against what a reasonable person would have done with common sense and caution.

Remember that “reasonable” does not mean “perfect.” Reasonable individuals make honest mistakes all the time, so it’s up to you and your physician negligence attorney to prove that a reasonable person would’ve been more careful.

Examples of the Standard

Let’s look at the reasonable person standard in action.

  • If a car accident occurs due to one driver running a red light, a jury may find that driver to be negligent—after all, a reasonable person doesn’t run red lights. However, if that driver tried their best to stop in time but failed, the case grows more complicated.
  • Say a would-be thief breaks into a jewelry store in the dead of night and injures himself in a slip-and-fall accident. A jury may not hold the jewelry store liable for that injury because reasonable people don’t break into businesses when they’re closed. It would, however, be reasonable for the business owner to expect his store to be free of people when it’s closed.

Proving Negligence

To use the reasonable person standard with a defendant in a negligence case, it’s crucial to prove that a reasonable person with common sense would not have made the same mistake. To prove negligence, you and your attorney will need to establish and prove a duty of care and a breach of that duty.

  • You’ll need to prove that the defendant, like a physician or nurse, owed you a duty of care when the alleged negligence occurred.
  • Next, prove that they breached that duty by behaving negligently, or in ways that a reasonable person in their position would not behave.

For example, a reasonable physician might review different treatment options with you to heal your illness or injury. They should exhaust non-invasive options before recommending surgery. Meanwhile, an unreasonable physician might be over-eager to get you into the operating room, possibly resulting in surgical error or infection.

To better understand the ins and outs of your negligence claim, learn more from your attorney about the reasonable person standard. The more knowledge you have, the better you can help your own case and get the justice you deserve.