Reasonable Person Standard

judge holding gavel in court room

When you’re learning about personal injury law, you may come across references to terms like reasonable person and reasonable care. The reasonable person is a concept explaining the legal standard that applies to evaluate the behavior of people who are involved in an accident.

If you’re part of a personal injury case, understanding the reasonable person standard and the standard of care definitions can help you prepare for your case and know what to expect from the legal process. Here’s what our personal injury lawyers want you to know about the reasonable person standard in injury law.

Table of Contents

Does the reasonable person standard apply to everyone equally?

The Reasonable Person Standard Definition

What does ‘reasonable’ mean in a legal context?

Do all personal injury lawsuits rely on proving negligence?

What’s the difference between a law and a standard?

What is a ‘reasonably prudent person’ in reference to case law?

Is the Reasonable Person Test Objective or Subjective?

Reasonable Person Standard

Reasonable Person Standard Example

Proving Negligence and the Reasonably Prudent Person in an Accident Case

How can you protect yourself from the financial costs of a personal injury lawsuit?

Can you sue for costs not covered by the at-fault party’s insurance?

Do you need a life care plan?

How Our Nevada Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help

What is the Term Used to Describe the Failure to Act as a Reasonable Person

The reasonable person in a personal injury claim is the legal standard for lawful behavior. The behavior of each person in the case is compared to what a fictional, reasonable person would do in the same situation. There is no way for a reasonable person to have seen this coming.

If the person’s behavior is as good or better than a reasonable person in the same situation, their actions are not negligent. But if the person’s conduct falls short of what a reasonable person would do under the same circumstances, their actions are negligent. When a person acts negligently, they’re subject to legal liability if that negligence resulted in an accident, such as a car crash or medical malpractice.

Does the reasonable person standard apply to everyone equally?

The application of the reasonable person standard varies based on a few factors, such as age and specialty. Every state determines how the reasonable person standard applies.

Children and Reasonable Person Standard

A child is generally not expected to act as a reasonable adult would act, and courts hold children to a modified standard. In cases where a child or minor person could be held liable, the court compares their behavior to a reasonable standard of behavior for a child of a similar age with comparable experiences and intelligence. Specific legal doctrines govern some areas of law concerning children. Particularly in property law, there is a law that requires property owners to keep their property safe for trespassing children. This is called the attractive nuisance doctrine.

Mental Illness and Reasonable Person Standard

The courts may or may not hold people with diagnosed mental illnesses to the typical reasonable person standard. Since each state sets its legal guidelines, some states may use the standard reasonably prudent person definition to determine whether the person was negligent. Other states may compare the person to the reasonable actions of a person with a similar mental illness.

Cognitive Disabilities and Reasonable Person Standard

Courts may make special allowances for persons with cognitive disabilities. The application of the reasonable person standard depends on the state with jurisdiction in the case.

Special Skills and Reasonable Person Standard

Courts may define the reasonable person standard based on the person’s specialization. For example, medical professionals such as doctors and nurse practitioners have extensive medical training and experience. Consequently, it’s reasonable to expect a different standard of medical intervention after an accident. Courts may determine negligence by comparing such persons to the reasonable standard of behavior for someone in the same profession in the same circumstances.

Variations to the reasonable person standard aren’t limited to medical professionals. In any situation involving personal injury, the courts may evaluate the person accused of negligence based on their unique skills or knowledge if it’s relevant to the case.

The Reasonable Person Standard Definition

front of court house building with pillars

The amount of care and caution that an ordinary person would use in a given situation is known as the reasonable person standard. The reasonable person standard depends on the situation. It’s a fictitious legal standard that applies to evaluate the behavior of each person involved in an accident. The trier of fact, usually the jury, looks at what each person did to see if their actions were at least as careful as a reasonable person.

If it’s proven that the defendant acted negligently and that negligence resulted in an accident, compensation is due to the victims for their damages, including medical expenses and pain and suffering.

What does ‘reasonable’ mean in a legal context?

The legal definition reasonable person standard hinges on what’s considered typical behavior. In legal terms, ‘reasonable’ means ordinary. The court considers the usual behavior of an average person under the same circumstances. Persons who meet or exceed an expected typical response aren’t negligent. Those who fail to meet the standard for typical behavior are negligent.

Do all personal injury lawsuits rely on proving negligence?

Some personal injury cases rely on proving negligence, while others involve negligence per se. In negligence per se cases, your legal team doesn’t have to prove the at-fault party failed to meet the reasonable person standard because the at-fault person broke the law.

For example, traffic lights direct drivers to stop to prevent traffic collisions and injuries. When a person runs a red light, they’re breaking the law. If the person who ran the red light hits another vehicle and injures that vehicle’s driver, your legal team can argue negligence per se.

What’s the difference between a law and a standard?

Laws are legal absolutes used by the courts and law enforcement to determine when a person has committed an illegal act. Those who break laws may be charged.

Standards don’t carry the same weight as laws. They’re legal definitions, but they’re more ambiguous than laws. They’re general guidelines, and depending on the circumstances and parties involved, they’re subject to interpretation. As noted earlier, the courts may not evaluate a child or someone with special skills with the same reasonable person standard as an average adult without relevant special skills.

What is a ‘reasonably prudent person’ in reference to case law?

A ‘reasonably prudent person’ is someone meeting the reasonable person standard. The courts consider whether the person used common sense under the circumstances. Those who used poor judgment could be considered negligent, while those demonstrating good judgment may not.

Is the Reasonable Person Test Objective or Subjective?

The reasonable person test is an objective standard. The purpose of the reasonable person test is to give the jury a concrete, uniform standard when they’re looking at the actions of each party in a case.

While it’s up to the jury to decide what’s reasonable in any given situation, the jury evaluates behavior based on an objective, reasonable person. They don’t look at what’s reasonable, specific to any one person. Instead, the test is an objective, uniform evaluation of behavior that applies to everyone in society.

Reasonable Person Standard

The basis for recovery in a personal injury accident is negligence. When you’re involved in an injury case, it’s up to the jury to apportion liability and fault. To win financial recovery for an accident, you must prove that the other party acted negligently.

To prove negligence in a personal injury lawsuit, there has to be some kind of legal standard for what amounts to negligent behavior. The facts of every accident case differ from the next, so the courts have the challenge of determining whether negligence occurred in any given situation. In Nevada and most jurisdictions, the definition of negligence is based on the reasonable person standard. To determine whether negligence occurred, the jury looks at what a reasonable person would do in the same situation.

Reasonable Person Standard Example

Let’s look at an example of how the reasonable person standard plays out in a legal case. For example, say a driver is traveling down the street. They approach an intersection. The light turns red, and the driver has plenty of time to stop.

However, the driver fails to come to a stop and proceeds through the intersection. At the same time, the light turns green for oncoming traffic. Another driver with a green light heads into the intersection. An accident occurs as a result.

In this case, the jury looks at the actions of each driver, based on what a reasonable person would do. A reasonable person stops at a red light. A reasonable person would not try to travel through an intersection when they don’t have the right of way. The jury decides the case by looking at each person’s actions compared to what the fictional, reasonable person would have done if confronted with the same circumstances.

Because a reasonable person wouldn’t run a red light, the driver that ran the light is negligent. The jury decides the case in favor of the injured plaintiff based on the finding of negligence against the driver that ran the red light.

Mastland, Inc. v. Evans Furniture, Inc. involves a case where a landlord tried to file a suit against a tenant for property damages to a dwelling unit he had rented. The problem was he was suing a 2-year-old child who started the fire by playing with a cigarette lighter. A child is not held to the same standard as a reasonable adult.

Proving Negligence and the Reasonably Prudent Person in an Accident Case

Once you understand the reasonably prudent person standard and how it applies, you must prepare to prove your case to the jury. As the injured victim, it’s up to you to prove all of the elements of the case. Showing how the responsible party failed to live up to the reasonably prudent person standard is a critical part of your claim.

To prove the reasonably prudent person standard, you must do two things:

  • First, you must prove what the actions of the other party were. You must present evidence to show what the other party did.
  • Second, you must argue to the jury that those actions fall below the standard of a reasonable person.

You prove your case with a mix of factual evidence about the events of the situation and legal arguments about how those facts apply to the reasonable person standard.

Ultimately, the jury decides on the case, but you must present them with the evidence and arguments they need to reach the correct decision. Carefully building the evidence and preparing your legal strategies can ensure that you have a case built for success. Also, with a strong case, the insurance company may be more willing to settle for a fair amount without having to go to trial.

How can you protect yourself from the financial costs of a personal injury lawsuit?

Insurance policies cover legal costs and judgments stemming from personal injury lawsuits. Suppose a person visits your property, falls through a hole in your deck, and sustains an injury. The visitor could sue you for compensation for their medical bills and related costs. If they prove negligence, your home insurance policy would cover some or all of the legal fees and judgment.

Auto and personal injury protection (PIP) insurance cover costs from a car accident. What is PIP? PIP is a supplemental insurance policy covering personal injury claims. Accident victims may use PIP insurance to cover medical costs not covered by health insurance, such as deductibles, copays, and prescription costs. It can also cover related costs from injuries incurred in the accident, such as the costs of personal or child care.

Can you sue for costs not covered by the at-fault party’s insurance?

Insurance may not cover all costs stemming from your accident. You could sue the at-fault driver for compensation if you sustained severe injuries in a car accident.

You must file paperwork with the court before the statute of limitations expires. The statute of limitations in Nevada is two years for most personal injury cases. Nevada allows three years to file a lawsuit for medical malpractice.

Do you need a life care plan?

A lifecare plan is essential to your legal claim when filing a personal injury lawsuit. Your lifecare plan outlines the financial costs related to your accident. Suppose you suffered a spinal cord injury (SCI) in an auto accident. As a result of your SCI, you’re partially paralyzed. You need to hire a home health aide to help you bathe and dress. Your medical costs include physical therapy to recover from your injuries, and you have to hire a childcare professional to care for and transport minor children. You also need to renovate your home to accommodate a wheelchair.

Work with a life care planner to detail these expenses and create a budget. The budget should include all relevant costs for the rest of your life. Your life care planner can help you determine the reasonable compensation cost for your injuries, and your legal team can present your life care plan in court to support your claim.

How Our Nevada Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help

If you’ve been injured in an accident, you must prove your case based on the reasonable person standard.

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Contact our professional personal injury Lawyers at Adam S. Kutner
if you’ve been injured in an accident.
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Our Las Vegas attorneys can represent you and handle every aspect of your accident claim. When we represent you, the personal injury attorneys at Adam S. Kutner & Associates handle every step involved in building your case. We can help you evaluate the claim based on the reasonable person standard, build the evidence in your case, and fight for the compensation that you deserve.

We invite you to contact our personal injury law firm for a free consultation. Let us explain how you can bring your claim for compensation based on Nevada law. Our team can answer all of your questions about the reasonable person standard and how we can help you prove your case.

There’s no cost to call, and your consultation is always confidential. If you decide to move forward with your case, there are no upfront costs and no fees unless you win. Let our skilled attorneys fight for justice for you.

Sources

Mastland, Inc. v. Evans Furniture, Inc. 498 N.W.2d 682 (Iowa 1993).

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Adam S. Kutner

Adam S. Kutner Personal Injury Lawyer

With more than 31 years of experience fighting for victims of personal injury in the Las Vegas valley, Attorney Adam S. Kutner knows his way around the Nevada court system and how to get clients their settlement promptly and trouble-free.