Before a party can be held accountable for an injury caused by negligence, it must be determined whether the defendant acted as a “reasonable person” would have in a similar situation. Negligence is present if there is a failure to behave with the degree of care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise. Therefore, the conduct of a “reasonable person” weighs heavily upon an injury case.
The “reasonable person” is a hypothetical individual who approaches any situation with the appropriate amount of caution and then sensibly takes action. It is a standard created to provide courts and juries with an objective test that can be used in deciding whether a person’s actions constitute negligence. This does not mean they must be perfect. Mistakes are made, and when it is an error that is reasonable under the circumstances, a person may not be liable. There are also unavoidable accidents in which injuries occur, or cases that are impossible to tell what a person did in the critical moments. However, when it is clear how a “reasonable person” would have behaved, and a defendant fails to act according to that standard, they may be considered negligent in any kind of personal injury case.
For example, a driver who speeds through an unmarked intersection without stopping did not behave in a reasonably prudent manner. A reasonably prudent driver would have slowed and completely stopped, in an effort to avoid a possible accident in this unsafe situation; as they would be aware that another vehicle could be coming at any moment.
A successful negligence-based claim hinges on the plaintiff’s ability to prove a defendant did not act reasonable. This involves showing that the risk of harm was foreseeable, which means the defendant was aware of their actions being wrong; as well as establishing the alternative action which a reasonable person would have taken. The jury will objectively consider the individual’s conduct based on the person’s knowledge, awareness, and mental capacity to behave similarly to a reasonable person. The law, though, will not make unique allowances for beginners, learners, or trainees in a special skill. They are held to the same level of care or conduct that a person who is reasonably skilled would exercise.
Children are the exception to the “reasonable person” standard, as they are typically not expected to act similarly to how an adult would. Courts hold them to a modified standard instead. Under this guideline, their conduct is compared to that of other children who are the same age and alike in their amount of experience and knowledge. However, there are certain jurisdictions such as driving, in which the adult standard of care does apply.
If you or someone you love has suffered an injury due to someone else’s failure to act as a “reasonable person,” you may be entitled to compensation. Our New York City personal injury lawyers extensive experience holding defendants liable in cases of negligence, and have recovered more than $2 Billion for clients over the last 10 years. Call our office at (212) 732-9000 and speak to a highly skilled attorney for free today.