The Standard of Care is Variable Depending on the Circumstances

January 15, 2020

If you’ve been harmed due to the negligence of another individual or entity, then you may be entitled to bring a right of action against the liable defendant to secure damages as compensation.  In the wake of an accident, it’s important to consult a qualified Allentown personal injury lawyer as soon as possible so that your legal claims can be filed and your rights properly advanced under the law.

Personal injury litigation is quite a bit more nuanced than many people expect, however — the defendant may attempt to minimize (or altogether avoid) liability by arguing that they did not violate the standard of care applicable to the circumstances.  Simply put, the success of many negligence-based injury lawsuits turns on the standard of care, which itself can vary substantially from case-to-case.

Let’s take a closer look at the standard of care and how it works in a negligence-based injury lawsuit.

Understanding the Reasonable Person Standard

Whether a defendant is found liable for negligence depends on the standard of care.  If the defendant violated the standard of care (applicable to the circumstances), then they will be deemed to have acted negligently, and could be held responsible for the damages arising out of their negligent conduct.

So, what is the standard of care?

It is perhaps best explained through the fiction that is the “reasonable person.”  Essentially, the standard of care is whatever conduct a reasonable person — with ordinary prudence — would have engaged in under the same or similar circumstances.  Typically, the reasonable person is the same regardless of the defendant’s own intelligence or skill, though there are circumstances where the reasonable person standard can be altered due to the unique properties of the defendant, such as any relevant, advanced licenses that they might hold.

Impacting the Standard of Care

In some cases, it is not unjust to match the “average” person with the defendant in determining whether negligence has been committed.

For example, in a medical malpractice lawsuit, the reasonable person standard must involve a calculation that evaluates how a similarly-situated healthcare professional (with the same training, experience, background, and skill) would have conduct themselves under the circumstances.  It would not be sensible to compare the defendant healthcare professional to a non-professional.

Similarly, in determining whether a commercial truck driver has committed negligence while operating their vehicle, one must compare them to a similarly-situated commercial truck driver, not an average member of the general public.

Of course, the reasonable person standard necessarily accounts for various other factors that can have an impact on the defendant’s conduct.  The circumstances surrounding the accident itself may be such that a reasonably prudent, similarly-situated person would have done the same as the defendant.

Suppose that the defendant is operating their vehicle during poor weather conditions.  They are driving slowly, but their tires simply cannot grip the road properly, and it sends their vehicle reeling into yours, causing injury.  Now, the court must determine if a driver in the same or similar conditions (i.e., with the same vehicle and suffering under the same poor weather conditions) would have continued driving, or if they would have stopped and waited out the weather.  Perhaps there is some other alternative.  In any case, the court would have to take into account the weather, and various other factors, in evaluating how a reasonably prudent person would have acted.

Let a Skilled Allentown Personal Injury Lawyer Help You With Your Case

Be sure to contact a skilled Allentown personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. We are here to help you fight for your legal rights.