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How Negligence Works in Personal Injury Cases: The Reasonable Person Standard

October 9, 2017

Negligence is the failure to act in a reasonable or prudent manner.  Whether you know it or not, each of us is charged with a duty to act with care, a reasonable degree of caution.  The law punishes careless actors, those that do not account for the safety and security of others.  The law does not punish careful individuals that through happenstance find themselves in an accident.  Sometimes accidents happen.  Bryan W. Crews and his staff will gladly evaluate the circumstances of your personal injury and determine whether liability exists.

In a civil society we owe one another a general duty of care, which means that we are all obligated to act as an ordinary, prudent, reasonable person.  Sometimes called the reasonable person standard.  Defendants that do not take precautions against creating an unreasonable risk of injury to others are liable for any damage they cause.  At the same time, no one is under a duty to take unreasonable precautions.  A duty of care is owed to foreseeable plaintiffs.

A helpful example of how negligence operates are rescuer situations.  If you undertake the rescue of another, you may have a case for damages against defendants that needlessly place themselves in peril.  In some jurisdictions, civil servants such as police officers and firefighters are barred from recovery.  Emergencies also present high pressure circumstances and leave little reaction time, something that is taken into account when determining the standard of care.

The standard of care is established a number of ways.  Think of the reasonable person as an average member of society, in the most positive sense.  This is an objective standard.  Defendants must act as a person with average mental ability and have the knowledge of an average member of the community.  However, defendants with a superior knowledge or ability may be held to a higher standard.  But this standard is not automatically imposed on all defendants.

Professionals are held to a higher standard because of their expertise.  Professionals, or those with special skills, are required to possess and exercise the same knowledge and skill of members in the same profession or occupation.  This is markedly different from the reasonable person standard.  If you are harmed or injured as the result of professional negligence, Bryan W. Crews, an Orlando personal injury attorney, will investigate your case to determine the standard of care.  Important factors include professional certifications, training, how other specialists would have acted, accepted practices in the field, and whether local or national standards exist.

Children are required to act and behave as other children the same age, education, intelligence, and experience would act.  Some children are so young that courts will not impose a duty.  Courts will express this in terms of lacking the capacity for negligence.  This analysis changes however when a child engages in adult activities such as driving a motor vehicle or motorboat.  Then children will be held to the same standard that would be imposed on an adult.

Each case is different, and this short article on negligence may illuminate your understanding of personal injury law.  Bryan W. Crews is a personal injury attorney in Orlando with years of practice experience, successful recoveries, and a dedicated staff.  Call today for a consultation and evaluation of your case.

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