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

Posted on June 1, 2023 in

When accidents happen, those harmed can take legal action against those responsible. If their cases are successful, they can receive compensation from anyone who caused or contributed to their injuries. 

Negligence is the legal theory that underlies personal injury law. It is the basis for recovering compensation in many types of cases, such as car accidents, slip and fall incidents, and medical malpractice cases. To recover compensation for an injury, you must establish negligence. 

The reasonable person standard – also called the reasonable man standard or the reasonably prudent person standard – is a key component of every negligence claim. But what is the reasonable person standard? 

What is Negligence? 

Four elements comprise negligence. To prove that someone was negligent, you must show that the following are true:

  • There was a duty of care. 
  • The individual breached their duty of care. 
  • You suffered harm. 
  • The individual caused the harm.

For instance, suppose an intoxicated driver strikes a pedestrian, causing severe injuries. In this case, the pedestrian can demonstrate that the drunk driver was negligent and must pay damages. 

  • The driver owed the pedestrian a duty to exercise reasonable care on the road. 
  • Choosing to drive while under the influence of alcohol constituted a breach of this duty. 
  • The pedestrian suffered injuries. 
  • The cause was the driver’s poor judgment and carelessness. 

The reasonably prudent person standard underlies the duty of care and breach elements in a negligence claim. 

Duty to Exercise Reasonable Care

Breach of duty is an essential component of a negligence claim. If you cannot show that someone breached their duty of care to you, you cannot hold the alleged wrongdoer legally responsible for your injury under the theory of negligence – even if this person harmed you. 

In other words, to have a successful negligence claim, you must be able to convince insurance companies, the court, and others that the individual breached their duty of care to you. 

What is the breach of duty? A person breaches their duty of care to others when their conduct falls below the general standard or differs from a reasonable person’s. 

Fundamental Question: What Would a Reasonable Person Have Done? 

The question is not whether the person acted perfectly. Instead, the inquiry is whether the individual acted unreasonably. Would a reasonable person have made the same choices and actions as the alleged responsible party? This fundamental question underscores the reasonably prudent person standard. 

When individuals act as a reasonable person would, they have not breached their duty of care and cannot be found liable for negligence. On the other hand, if individuals act unreasonably, they have breached their duty of care, and the civil court can hold them responsible for the accidents and incidents they caused. 

What Types of Conduct Can Be Considered a Breach of Duty? 

Conduct that could be considered unreasonable deviates from what most people would do in a given scenario. It is careless behavior. 

Examples of conduct that could be considered unreasonable include: 

  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol 
  • Knowingly selling dangerous goods
  • Texting while driving 
  • Excessive speeding 
  • Keeping a store in unsafe conditions such that patrons are likely to slip and fall

When professionals make mistakes and injure people, the reasonably prudent person standard is specific to the profession. The inquiry is whether other professionals would have acted similarly. 

Take medical malpractice cases, for example. In these cases, doctors are compared to others in their specialty, not the general population. 

A Portland Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Prove Negligence

If someone injured you in Portland, OR, contact an experienced attorney for help proving the elements of your claim. A Portland personal injury attorney will help you hold the negligent party responsible for your damages (economic and non-economic), including medical bills, lost income, expenses, and trauma. 

Contact Our Personal Injury Attorneys in Portland, OR – Tillmann Law Personal Injury Lawyers

If you were injured in an accident in Portland, OR, please contact our Portland personal injury lawyers at Tillmann Law Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation today.

Tillmann Law Personal Injury Lawyers
101 SW Main St. #1905
Portland, OR, 97204
(503) 272-8986

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