Accidents can happen at any time and any place. What separates an accident from an act of negligence is the “standard of care” that is required in any given situation. When an individual neglects the proper standard of care, they may be found liable for resulting injuries. For example, a motorist is required to exercise the same standard of care that a “reasonable person” would in the same situation. This can include obeying traffic laws, and paying attention to other drivers and pedestrians. If a motorist who is required to wear glasses while driving fails to do so and causes injury to another motorist, he would be considered negligent because a reasonable motorist required to wear glasses would not drive without corrective lenses.

The “reasonable person” standard talked about in negligence law is a legal fiction. It stands for what an ideal, typical person, with ordinary prudence would act like in certain situations. The test for whether a person has acted reasonably is an objective one, and does not take into account the specific abilities of the defendant. For example, if a person received special training in collision avoidance, that special knowledge would be admissible to show that person’s conduct was not careful enough given their training.   

In most negligence cases, a jury typically decides whether a defendant has acted as a reasonable person would have acted. In making this determination, the jury considers the defendant’s conduct in light of what the defendant actually knows, has experienced, or perceived. In addition to the defendant’s actual knowledge, the jury considers knowledge that should be common to everyone in a particular community.

A child is typically not held to the same standard of care as an adult. Generally, a child is not expected to act as a reasonable adult would act. Instead, courts hold children to a modified standard of care. Under this standard, a child’s actions are compared to the actions of other children of the same age, experience, and intelligence. In some courts, however, the adult standard of care is applied to children who engage in certain adult activities, such as driving a car.

Likewise, individuals who engage in activities requiring special skills, education, training or experience, such as piloting an airplane, are also held to a modified standard. The standard by which their conduct is measured is the conduct of a reasonably skilled, competent and experienced person who is a qualified member of the group authorized to engage in that activity. Anyone performing special skills, whether qualified or not, is held to the standards of conduct of those properly qualified to do so. This is so because the public relies on the special expertise of those who engage in such activities.

If you or a loved one has been injured through negligence, it means that someone failed to act in a reasonable manner and is therefore liable for injuries that resulted. Let the experienced team at Wittmer|Linehan evaluate your case and assist you with recovering damages. To speak with our team of knowledgeable attorneys and staff, please contact us at (941) 365-2296.