The “reasonable person” standard is part of proving a negligence claim. Most personal injury cases in Florida are based on negligence. Before you can recover compensation for your injuries and damages, you must prove the legal elements of a negligence claim.
Claims of negligence may be asserted in cases involving:
- Automobile accidents
- Premises liability claims
- Medical malpractice claims
- Product liability claims
- Workplace accidents
- Boating accidents
- Wrongful death
- Nursing home abuse
- And many more types of personal injury claims
Before discussing how to prove a negligence claim, let’s define the term “reasonable person.”
Who is the Reasonable Person in a Florida Negligence Case?
The reasonable person is a hypothetical standard for how a person of ordinary, reasonable prudence would act in a given situation. It is not a real person; it is the “legally appropriate” response to a situation.
In a personal injury lawsuit, the jury decides what a reasonable person should have done in the same or similar situation. If the defendant’s conduct falls short of this standard, the defendant acted negligently.
Failing to act with a certain level of care in a given situation means that the defendant can be held financially liable for damages.
For example, all drivers in Florida have a duty to obey the traffic laws. Traffic laws are designed to protect everyone using the roadways and reduce the risk of accidents and injuries. Therefore, failing to follow traffic laws could be considered negligent.
An ordinary reasonable person understands that drugged driving is against the law and it is dangerous. A reasonable person would not place others at risk by driving under the influence of drugs. If the jurors find that the defendant was guilty of drugged driving, the jurors may conclude that the defendant was negligent because his actions fell short of the reasonable person standard.
Are There Exceptions to the Reasonable Person Standard?
Yes, the jury could find that there was no way that a reasonable person could have foreseen how specific conduct could result in an injury. If that is the case, the defendant’s conduct might not be considered negligent.
The jury may also find that the injury would have happened regardless of the defendant’s actions. In other words, there was no way the defendant could have prevented the injury from occurring. In that case, the jurors might decide that the defendant’s conduct did not rise to the level of negligence.
The reasonable person standard is decided on a case-by-case basis. The jurors must use the facts and circumstances of the case to develop the standard that they will apply to the defendant’s conduct.
The Reasonable Person Standard is Just One Factor in a Negligence Case
A plaintiff must prove all four elements of negligence to win a personal injury case, not just the reasonable person standard.
The four legal elements of a negligence case are:
Duty of Care
The party who caused your injury must have owed you a duty of care. The duty of care is a legal obligation for a person to act in a certain way regarding another person.
For example, a driver owes a duty of care to a pedestrian to stop at a crosswalk. A hotel owner owes a duty of care to guests to provide clean premises, including beds that do not have bedbugs. A construction company has a duty of care to secure the premises to avoid accidents if a child wanders onto the lot.
Breach of the Duty of Care
This element involves the reasonable person standard. The jurors must decide if the defendant’s conduct breached the duty of care by failing to rise to the level of the reasonable person standard.
If the defendant’s conduct fell short of the standard, the jurors may conclude that the defendant breached the duty of care.
Causation can be the most challenging element to prove. First, you must link the breach of duty to the cause of your injury.
The plaintiff has the burden of proving that the defendant’s conduct was a direct and proximate cause of your injury. In other words, your injury would not have occurred had it not been for the defendant’s actions.
If you cannot prove that the defendant’s actions caused your injury, he is not responsible for your damages, even if he was negligent.
The final element of a negligence case is proving damages. You must demonstrate that you sustained damages because of your injury.
Damages in a personal injury case include economic damages, such as the cost of medical treatment and the loss of income. However, damages also include the pain and suffering you experienced, which are considered non-economic damages.
If you prove all four elements of negligence, you can recover compensation for your damages. Otherwise, a jury may find that the defendant is not responsible for your injuries and damages.