Reasonable Care And Standard: What is the Difference?

woman on knee with caution sign

In personal injury law, in order to be negligent, you either have to do something to cause harm to someone else or fail to act to do something that causes their injury. This is a gray area since accidents happen all the time; finding fault and liability are not always as clear-cut as you would assume. The thing that separates when incidents are nothing more than an accident and when they result from negligence is a legal term called “standard of care.” A standard of care is the reasonable action that someone is obligated to take in order to stop someone from being injured.

If an individual neglects the standard of care, then they may be found liable for the resulting injuries to someone else. The standard of care is based on the concept of “reasonable care.” This is the action that a “reasonable person” would take in a situation or event. For instance, if you knew that the porch railing at your house was broken and you didn’t warn a guest who was leaning against it, that would not be what a reasonable person would do. A reasonable person would warn someone that they might get injured if they lean on something that is broken. Sometimes in personal injury suits, ascribing what a reasonable person would do is not always clear.

How do you define the actions of a reasonable person?

The reasonable person is a legal creation based on a fictional ideation. In legal terms, a “reasonable person” is often an ideal one, and the label seeks to determine what the average or “typical” person would do if they were in the same situation.

Since hindsight is 20/20 and no two individuals are the same, it is hard to objectify what a reasonable person would do in any circumstance. In personal injury judgments, a reasonable person doesn’t take into account the deficits of the defendant or anything related to them individually. For instance, if someone is of low intelligence, ignorance does not negate their liability in a personal injury case. When ascribing a reasonable action, everyone in a court of law is held to the same standard of intelligence and ability to reason.

The jury’s job is to look at any event and determine what a reasonable person would or should have done in any personal injury lawsuit. This isn’t about taking into account any actual characteristics of the individual defendant, but rather looking at what they should have done according to what they did or did not know before the incident occurred. The jury must determine whether a reasonable person in their situation should have known or seen an accident coming. It isn’t determined on a person-by-person basis. It is a legal hypothetical under which the jury operates.

What about the standard of care for children?

When it comes to the standard of care for children, a child is not expected to act in the same manner as a reasonable adult. When personal injury suits involve children as defendants, there is still a reasonable person assumption, but the court uses a modified standard. A child’s actions in a personal injury suit are determined by what other children their age are capable of understanding or reasoning through. However, if the actions of the defendant are behaviors that adults engage in, then reasonable care is ascribed to the child in an adult manner. For example, if a child is riding on a snowmobile or driving a car, then they are held to the same reasonable standard of care that an adult would be in the same circumstance.

So in practical terms, a standard of care is the amount of care that a “reasonable” person would use in any event or circumstance. It’s a hypothetical creation of the law since each individual is different, but it is an objective way to determine a subjective factor in any personal injury case and is the basis of finding negligence and liability. A can confirm it’s not a perfect system. Without the presumption of a reasonable person, many victims would not be able to recover for the negligence of someone else. Also, there would be no standard of objectivity in personal injury lawsuits.