Who Is the 'Reasonable Person' in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

In any Virginia personal injury case (i.e., car, motorcycle, pedestrian, or slip and fall accident), there is one person who is repeatedly made the focal point of the injury victim’s case: the “reasonable person.” The injury victim’s entire case for compensation rests on what this “reasonable person” would have done in the situation the allegedly negligent defendant found themselves in.

If a judge or jury believes the defendant acted in the same manner as the “reasonable person” would have acted, then the injury victim’s case will fail. Conversely, if the allegedly negligent defendant is determined to have behaved in a manner at odds with the way in which the “reasonable person” would have behaved, then the defendant will be found to have acted negligently and may be held responsible for the injured plaintiff’s losses.

As your Virginia Beach personal injury lawyer can explain, the “reasonable person” in personal injury cases is fictitious — he (or she) does not actually exist. Nonetheless, several characteristics of the “reasonable person” should be noted.

The “Reasonable Person” Acts Objectively

This is to say, the “reasonable person” will always act based on reasonable and logical interpretations of the facts. The “reasonable person,” for instance, will never strike someone in self-defense unless there are sufficient facts that make it reasonable for him or her to believe that he or she is in imminent danger. If the defendant provides a justification for his or her actions, the justification provided is evaluated on the grounds of its reasonableness.

The “Reasonable Person” Is of the Same Age and Background as the Defendant

Although the “reasonable person” acts objectively, he or she acts in accordance with the age and experiences of the defendant. A defendant who is 18 years of age is not expected to respond to a situation in the same manner as a defendant who is 35 years of age. Similarly, a defendant who has no medical background is not necessarily expected to act and respond to a situation in the same way as a defendant with such specialized training. A defendant living in a rural area and isolated from services like police and fire protection will not be expected to act in the same way as someone who lives in an urban area where such services are readily available.

The Judge or Jury Ultimately Determines How the “Reasonable Person” Acts in Any Given Situation

In a personal injury case, both parties will attempt to convince the judge or jury as to how the “reasonable person” would have acted – but it is up to the judge or jury to determine how the “reasonable person” would have actually acted.

Call Our Personal Injury Law Firm for Legal Help

The success of your personal injury lawsuit depends in part on your attorney’s ability to paint a convincing picture of the “reasonable person” that shows how careless the other party’s actions or behavior were. Make sure you have a skilled Virginia Beach personal injury attorney advocating for you.

Contact Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to schedule a free consultation. We will evaluate your case and determine what your legal options may be. Our legal team has successfully represented many accident victims, including a $50,000 insurance settlement for one client who suffered aggravation of a pre-existing injury another motorist pulled out from a parking lot directly into the path of our client’s vehicle.