Most personal injury cases are based on negligence claims. You must prove each of the elements of a negligence claim to win your case. One of those legal elements involves the “reasonable person” standard, which can be confusing and frustrating for accident victims.

There are four legal elements required to prove a negligence claim. Those four elements are:

  • DUTY — The negligent party owed the victim a duty of care. For example, drivers owe a duty of care to operate their motor vehicle safely.
  • BREACH OF DUTY — The negligent party breached the duty of care, such as when a driver failed to follow traffic laws.
  • CAUSATION — The breach of duty caused the accident and injuries, such as when a driver causes a crash because they failed to yield the right of way.
  • DAMAGES — The victim sustained damages because of the at-fault party’s negligent conduct.

Damages in a personal injury case may include economic and non-economic damages. Through these damages, an injured party may receive compensation for their lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and more.

The “reasonable person” standard is used to decide whether a person breached the duty of care owed to the victim.

What is the Reasonable Person Standard?

A reasonable person is a hypothetical person who is prudent and acts with care and common sense in all situations. The person considers the risks of certain situations or behaviors and acts with the appropriate level of care.

In a negligence case, a jury will analyze whether the defendant behaved like a reasonable person under the circumstances. The defendant breached their duty if they did not act like a reasonable person would have acted in the same situation. For example, would a reasonable person speed while driving?

The jury listens to the testimony and evidence presented during the trial. If a reasonable person could not have foreseen that their actions would result in harm to another person, the jury might find that the defendant was not negligent.

However, suppose the jury determines that the defendant could have reasonably foreseen that their conduct could cause harm to another person. In that case, the jury may find the defendant breached the duty of care by not acting reasonably. 

Children are often exempted from the reasonable person standard. Children are not mature enough to understand the consequences of their actions.

However, a judge could instruct the jury to judge the child’s behavior based on a child of similar age and maturity. 

The Next Steps – Causation and Damages 

Proving that the defendant failed to act like a reasonable person is not sufficient for proving your negligence claim. You must link the breach of care to the injury and damages. 

For example, you might show a driver was traveling ten mph over the posted speed limit when an accident occurred. Failing to follow the speed limit could be considered a breach of duty since the driver was breaking traffic laws.

However, say the other driver involved in the crash ran a stop sign and pulled into the path of the speeding driver. Although the speeding driver may have breached the duty of care, his actions did not cause the accident. In this example, the other driver’s failure to yield the right of way was the cause of the crash. 

Therefore, the speeding driver is not liable for the damages because his actions were not the direct and proximate cause of the accident. 

Personal Injury Cases Involving Negligence and the Reasonable Person Standard

Examples of cases involving claims of negligence include, but are not limited to:

The reasonable person standard can be a challenging aspect of a personal injury case. Attorneys for both sides may vigorously argue what a reasonable person would have done in a given situation. 

Most injury cases settle without going to court. However, do not assume you will settle your case. You have a limited time to file a lawsuit, according to the Texas statute of limitations. Seeking legal advice as soon as possible after an injury or accident is in your best interest.