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What Is Considered a Reasonable Person When It Comes to Negligence?

Published on Sep 10, 2023 by Thomas Law Offices.

What Is Considered a Reasonable Person When It Comes to Negligence
You’ve been injured, and now you need help paying your medical bills, making up for your lost wages, and addressing your pain and suffering. So who pays for these damages? The financial liability for your related damages usually falls on the at-fault party and (in most cases) their insurance provider.

The insurance company won’t just take your word that their policyholder was at fault, though. Instead, you’ll need to prove that the other person acted negligently and in opposition to what a reasonable person would have done.

But what is considered a reasonable person when it comes to negligence? The answer to this question can vary.

Key Highlights:

  • Establishing negligence is necessary for recovering compensation in a personal injury claim.
  • The actions expected of a reasonable person will depend on the activity they were engaged in (e.g., driving a car vs. providing medical care).
  • You and your attorney must have evidence proving how the at-fault party’s actions fell short of how a reasonable person would have acted.

The 4 Elements of Negligence

The state of Illinois allows individuals who have been injured by the negligence of others to recover financial compensation for their damages. In most cases, the most effective way to recover this compensation is to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party’s insurer. Insurers frequently named in these types of claims include those that provide some of the following coverage:

  • Auto insurance
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Commercial property insurance
  • Liability insurance
  • Medical malpractice insurance

To successfully secure the compensation you need for medical bills, lost wages, and other related losses, you’ll have to prove what happened to the insurance company. Part of this process is making sure that your claim outlines how the other party’s actions met the four elements of negligence. These four elements are:

  1. The at-fault party owed you a duty or standard of care.
  2. The at-fault party violated that duty or standard of care.
  3. That violation caused you to suffer injury or harm.
  4. You suffered verifiable losses as a result.

So What Is the “Reasonable Person”?

The term “reasonable person” comes into play when we’re considering what the duty or standard of care should have been in a given situation. Let’s take the example of driving. Every driver has a duty of care to follow all traffic laws, adhere to posted speed limits, and act in a way that preserves the safety and well-being of all those they share the road with.

When faced with a traffic hazard, such as poor weather that inhibits visibility, a reasonable person would reduce their speed and exercise additional caution. A reasonable person behind the wheel of a motor vehicle will also:

  • Maintain a safe speed (even when lower than the posted limit)
  • Use a blinker to signal turns and lane changes
  • Watch for other cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians
  • Keep phones and other distractions out of their hands

If a driver fails to follow the standard of care, then they have failed to meet the standard of a reasonable person.

We can also use the reasonable person standard in terms of medical malpractice claims. Claims involving allegations of medical errors often rest on the question: What would another medical professional have reasonably done in the same situation?

Answering this question requires specialized knowledge. This is why Thomas Law Offices frequently partners with medical experts who are willing to evaluate medical histories and testify on behalf of our clients.

What’s the Role of a “Reasonable Person” for Your Personal Injury Claim?

Determining what a reasonable person would have done and how the other person fell short of those actions is a key component of any successful personal injury claim. What this does is prove to the insurance company or judge overseeing the case that:

  1. The accident, harm, or injury was foreseeable, and
  2. The at-fault person knew (or should have reasonably known) that their actions were dangerous or unsafe.

It’s important to note that trainees and beginners are not afforded any special allowances in terms of liability. If a newly licensed driver chooses to speed above the posted speed limit and causes an accident, there is no exception for their behavior because they have less experience. Even at 16 years old, a licensed driver is expected to behave as a reasonable person.

Proving That the Other Person Failed To Act Reasonably

So how do you and your attorney prove that the at-fault party failed to act as a reasonable person would? First, you have to demonstrate what their actions were. Let’s look at some evidence that can be used to determine a person’s actions for:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
    • Dash cam footage
    • Issued citations
    • Police reports
  • Medical malpractice
    • Medical records
    • Appointment notes
    • Billing notices
  • Slip and fall accidents
    • Security footage
    • Eyewitness testimony
    • Maintenance records

Once you’ve established how the other person acted, you’ll need to determine how a reasonable person would have acted if they were placed in the same or similar circumstances. This is a process that often requires the careful guidance of an attorney and (in some cases) an expert in the given field.

Finally, you’ll have to show how the at-fault party’s actions fell short of what was reasonably expected of them.

Thomas Law Offices Is a Powerful Advocate for Injury Victims in Chicago

We are a multi-state personal injury law office with access to nationwide resources and a fierce dedication to our local communities. We are proud to serve the Chicagoland area, including Aurora, Buffalo Grove, Calumet City, Dolton, Elgin, Evanston, Naperville, Oak Park, Waukegan, and Wheaton.

We provide free, no-obligation case evaluations to injury victims and their families. This means that there’s no cost to speak with a personal injury lawyer in Chicago about your accident, injuries, and whether the other person’s actions failed to meet the standards of a reasonable person.

So let’s talk. Contact our law office by phone or our easy-to-use online contact form to schedule your initial meeting.

Free Case Evaluation

At Thomas Law Offices, our personal injury attorneys recognize that our potential clients are likely going through some of the most difficult times of their lives. We don't want you to have to worry about paying out of pocket for legal advice when you're just starting to learn your legal rights and options. That's why we provide free case evaluations. We'll offer our expert advice about your potential case and walk you through how we can help you.

Call us or fill out the form below to tell us about your potential case and a personal injury lawyer will get back to you as quickly as possible.

Meet Our Founder

Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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