Reasonable Person Standard

June 13, 2023

The reasonable person standard is an important aspect of personal injury law. If you have never been involved in a personal injury lawsuit or an injury claim with an insurance carrier, this “reasonable person standard” may seem slightly confusing. Any type of legal terminology can be confusing, but having it broken down into simpler terms helps, especially if you think you will be involved in an injury claim.

What is the Reasonable Person Standard?

When it comes to your personal injury law, individuals often file insurance claims or lawsuits against other individuals or entities whose negligence may have led to an injury. If a personal injury claim is to be successful, it must be shown that the alleged negligent party owed a duty of care to the injury victim and that they breached their duty of care in some way, causing the injury.

When examining whether or not a person breached their duty of care, it is very likely that a jury will examine whether or not a “reasonable person” would have done the same thing (either the same negligent action or inaction) as the alleged negligent party.

First, a basic definition – according to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School, we see that “All members of the community owe a duty to act as a reasonable person in undertaking or avoiding actions with the risk to harm others.” Still, that doesn’t actually define a “reasonable person,” but we think we can help.

How will a jury determine whether or not a person’s conduct falls short of what a reasonable person would have done under the same circumstance?

In these situations, the behavior of the alleged negligent person will be compared to what a fictional reasonable person would have done in the same situation. In other words, was there a way for the alleged negligent party to have foreseen what would have occurred? Would this other fictional reasonable person have anticipated the issue and taken different steps to ensure safety?

The reasonable person standard will look different depending on several factors. Not everyone will have the same reasonable person standard applied. For example, children, as well as those with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities, will need to be compared to a fictional reasonable person with the same skills and cognitive abilities.

Typically, the court will look at what the average person’s usual behavior would be under the same circumstances. Individuals who meet or exceed this expected usual response will likely not be found negligent. If individuals fall below this reasonable person standard, they will likely be found negligent and could owe compensation to the injury victim.

Do You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you or somebody you love has sustained an injury caused by the negligent actions of another individual, company, or entity in West Virginia, we encourage you to reach out to an experienced Martinsburg injury attorney as soon as possible. These claims can be challenging, particularly when working to determine the reasonable person standard. Your attorney can examine the facts of your case and conduct a complete investigation in order to help you recover the compensation you need.


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