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Maureen May
Maureen May
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A Reasonable Person, in Personal Injury Terms

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A phrase often used in personal injury law concerns the reasonable person standard. A reasonable person is a hypothetical person in society who exercises average skill, care, and judgment in his conduct while under threat of harm. This degree of care serves as a comparative standard for determining liability.

Factors Determining Reasonableness

A reasonable person should not be confused with an average person, who is not necessarily guaranteed to always be reasonable. Ideally, a reasonable person will consider the following factors before engaging in a certain type of conduct:

  • The foreseeable risk of harm related to his actions versus the value his actions might have
  • The extent of the risk his actions might create
  • The likelihood that the risk will actually harm others
  • Any alternative actions that would cause a lesser degree of risk, and the costs of those alternatives

To consider all the factors related to his actions, a reasonable person must be appropriately informed, capable, aware of the law, and fair. When deciding whether a defendant acted as a reasonable person would have, an objective test is given in which his conduct is compared to that expected of a reasonable person under similar circumstances. Although a reasonable person is capable of doing something extraordinary in certain situations, whatever he does or thinks is always reasonable.

Same Standards for Everyone?

The reasonable person standard is not applied uniformly to all persons because varying degrees of caution and concern can be expected from different types of individuals, such as children, adults, and people possessing different skills and levels of knowledge. Most of the time, people with greater than average skills or a special place in society, such as a doctor, are held to a higher standard of care than an ordinary person.

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