Personal Injury And Negligence 101 – The Standard Of Care
By Andrew R. Bronsnick
When you have been hurt because of the wrongful actions of another person, you have a right to seek compensation for all your losses, from physical injury to property damage. Though you can always file a lawsuit to recover monetarily for the intentional or reckless acts of another person, most personal injury claims are based on allegations of negligence. Though it can seem obvious that your losses were caused by someone else’s conduct, there are three specific tests that must be met before a jury will award you damages:
- The defendant breached the duty of care
- That breach caused the accident
- You suffered actual losses as a result of the accident
This blog looks at the standard of care.
The Standard Of Care In A Personal Injury Lawsuit Based On Negligence
The legal theory of negligence has evolved over centuries and has been passed on primarily through what is known as the “common law,” in the form of written opinions from judges. A longstanding principle of negligence, under the common law, is that everyone in society has a duty, in all conduct, to act as a reasonable person would. If a person fails to act as reasonable person would (breaches the duty of care), that person can potentially be held responsible for any losses anyone else suffers as a result of the breach. So, in all activities, whether it’s driving a car, maintaining real property, manufacturing or designing a consumer product or operating a power tool, there’s a duty to act as a reasonable person would.
Though the common law establishes the duty to act reasonably, it doesn’t really define what is reasonable. The closest it comes is to indicate that “reasonable” means what an “average person of ordinary prudence” would do. As a practical matter, whether or not a person’s conduct was reasonable is an issue to be determined by the jury, on a case-by-case basis (though past decisions carry weight when making those decisions).