What is the Reasonable Person Standard?

If you’re researching what statutes might apply to your personal injury case, it won’t be long before you run across the phrase “reasonable person standard.” Most people consider themselves reasonable, so you might wonder what the reasonable person standard is and how it applies.

A quick search reveals articles on the standard as it applies to crimes against persons, property, animals, the state and a long list of other circumstances. Let’s define the reasonable person standard as it applies to personal injury law.

A reasonable person isn’t an actual person, it’s a legal fiction. It asks decision makers to imagine how most people would react in a given situation and decide whether or not someone owes a duty of care.

Reasonable Person Examples

Let’s say a person visits a hardware store and trips and falls because merchandise was left in the middle of the aisle. During the course of the investigation, it was discovered that merchandise had been there for hours and staff knew it could cause problems. In that case, the store had a duty of care to provide a safe environment for shoppers. A reasonable person would have put things away.

However, it’s different if a burglar breaks into the same store at night and trips on inventory because it’s dark. The store owner does not have a duty of care to leave the lights on when no one is supposed to be present.

A reasonable person would slow down in bad weather to ensure they maintain control of their vehicle. A reasonable person would restrain an aggressive dog. A reasonable property owner would maintain areas commonly used by tenants.

Reasonable Person Standard and Car Accidents

At some point in life, almost everyone is somehow involved in a car accident. Vehicles are (mostly) operated by humans, and humans make mistakes. But the thing is, there’s an expectation that when one gets behind the wheel, he or she accepts responsibility for keeping others safe.

A reasonable person stays alert and physically in control. They avoid preventable behaviors that could lead to accidents. These are ways someone might fail to act as they should:

  • Speeding
  • Running red lights
  • Texting and driving
  • Ignoring traffic laws
  • Failing to adjust to weather or road conditions
  • Driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
  • Driving while fatigued or emotionally distraught

Reasonable Person Standard and Negligence

In a negligence case, its asked what a reasonable person would do if faced with the same situation and circumstances. If a defendant didn’t do those things (or did do something they shouldn’t have) they might found to be negligent if their actions caused someone else to get hurt.

For example, a doctor is expected to treat patients according to their medical history, current best practices, their knowledge of pharmaceuticals and so on. If a physician doesn’t act as is expected for his or her profession, negligence might result in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Construction is notoriously a dangerous occupation, and employers are responsible for providing workers with safe conditions and protective equipment. If they don’t it could be argued they aren’t doing what a reasonable person would do in a given situation.

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If you experienced a significant personal injury and you’re trying to understand how the law applies to you, we’re here to help. Contact our law firm at (903)999-9999 or click here to schedule your free case evaluation.