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What Is Considered a “Reasonable Person” When it Comes to Negligence?

If you’ve ever been involved in a court case, you’ve probably heard the term “reasonable person”. Though this term is thrown around quite frequently, it is an important legal concept that your California personal injury lawyer may use with your lawsuit or legal claim.

Not sure what constitutes a “reasonable person” when the court is determining negligence? Let’s break down what a reasonable person is in a legal context.

What is a “Reasonable Person”?

A “reasonable person” when used in legal contexts is a hypothetical person that does two things:

  • Approaches, experiences, or observes a situation with the right amount of caution and understanding
  • Takes or does not take sensible action depending on the scenario’s circumstances

For instance, a “reasonable person” involved in an auto accident might perform actions in a sequence like this:

  • They’re driving at night and paying attention, but it is very slippery and icy due to inclement weather
  • Despite their precautions, they end up swerving and hitting another vehicle
  • Because they drove under the speed limit and took reasonable precautions, they behaved “reasonably”. Thus, it is unlikely that they would be able to be sued by the other party involved in the accident

In a broader sense, the concept of a reasonable person is used in court to avoid the necessity of perfect behavior from all parties. Mistakes are made and errors in judgment occur, but people may still not necessarily be sued or convicted of crimes if they behave reasonably.

When is the Reasonable Person Standard Used?

The reasonable person standard is typically used in cases involving negligence. For car accidents, personal injury lawsuits, and similar cases, fault is contingent on proving the negligence of the defending party.

For instance, a California driver accused of causing a collision must be proven to have been negligent in their actions for the case to succeed.

To determine whether the accused driver acted responsibly or not, the court, including the lawyers, judge, and/or jury will compare the actions of the accused driver to the actions of a hypothetical “reasonable person”.

If the accused individual’s behavior is as good or even better than what a reasonable person might do, they may not be responsible for damages in the accident.

Is the Reasonable Person Test Really Objective?

According to California law, yes. The reasonable person test is used to give the judge or jury a uniform and concrete standard they can use when looking at the actions of parties in lawsuits.

That being said, lawyers can influence what might be seen as “reasonable” depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, a person driving at the speed limit in a heavy snowstorm might have been behaving reasonably in good weather, but not while the roads are icy.

Because of this, it’s imperative that you contact California personal injury lawyers right away if your case involves negligence. They will be able to use the reasonable person standard to influence the outcome of the case and either defend you or capably represent your interests in a lawsuit. Contact us today for more information.