You may have heard of a “reasonable person” in the context of a personal injury lawsuit in California. But, who is this “reasonable person,” and why are they important? In a personal injury lawsuit based on negligence, the injured party must show that the defendant did not act like a “reasonable person” would have in a similar situation.
For example, a reasonable person would stop at a stop sign to avoid a car accident; in similar circumstances, a person not acting as a reasonable person would speed through the stop sign, causing a car accident. This “reasonable person” standard is at the heart of most personal injury or negligence lawsuits; therefore, it is essential to understand what the reasonable person standard is and how it applies to negligence cases in Los Angeles, California.
What Is Negligence in California?
Negligence is the basis for most personal injury cases in California. It essentially means the same thing as “carelessness” and is the standard used for establishing fault. A successful negligence lawsuit in California will include the following elements:
- the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty to use due care;
- the defendant breached its legal duty;
- the breach was the proximate or legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries or damages; and,
- the plaintiff suffered actual injuries or damages to the plaintiff.
For example, if the defendant is driving a car, they owe a legal duty of care to all other drivers, including the plaintiff. If the defendant is distracted by their phone while driving and does not pay attention to the traffic light, the defendant has breached their legal duty.
If the defendant’s breach results in a car accident, the defendant’s breach was the cause of the accident.
And finally, the plaintiff must have suffered actual injuries or damages as a result of the defendant’s breach of their duty.
What Is the Reasonable Person Standard and How Does It Affect a Los Angeles Negligence Claim?
In the context of a negligence or personal injury lawsuit, the “reasonable person” is a made-up person that applies the appropriate amount of caution to every situation and sensibly applies that caution before taking any action.
Courts use this hypothetical “reasonable person” as an objective standard to view how a person should act in any given circumstance. As such, courts and juries use this “reasonable person” standard when evaluating whether a defendant’s actions were negligent.
It is important to understand that the “reasonable person” standard does not require that the defendant act perfectly. The standard contemplates that the “reasonable person” is still human and that humans make mistakes. However, the mistakes must be reasonable under the circumstances of the case for the person to be found not negligent.
How Does the Reasonable Person Standard Play Out in a Case?
For a plaintiff’s negligence or personal injury claim to be successful, they must prove that the defendant failed to act reasonably under the circumstances. Usually, this means that the plaintiff must show that the defendant understood or could foresee that their actions were wrong and risked harming the plaintiff.
When the judge or jury considers the plaintiff’s case, they will apply the “reasonable person” standard to examine the defendant’s actions objectively. They will also consider the defendant’s awareness of the circumstances, knowledge, experience (i.e., if the defendant is a trainee or beginner), and mental capacity to determine how the “reasonable person” would have acted in the situation.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
An experienced personal injury lawyer knows the “reasonable person” standard like the back of their hand. They can craft legal arguments on your behalf to ensure your interests are represented during your case. Negligence claims can become complicated, and having a reputable advocate in your corner is important.
Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA
If you were injured in an accident in Los Angeles, CA or you lost a loved one and you need legal assistance, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. One of our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers will get in touch with you soon.