In general, liability for damages in personal injury law requires a finding that another person was negligent in his or her actions, which caused you harm. In today’s world, there are innumerable interactions with many people, and sometimes accidents occur that are, legally speaking, no one’s fault. However, in pursuing your personal injury case, your Jacksonville auto accident attorney often will have to establish that what actually occurred was not “reasonable” under the circumstances, and therefore, the person who acted unreasonably should compensate your for your injuries.
Standard of Care
The concept of a standard of care involves an understanding that there are different standards of care based on the nature and character of the relationship between the parties involved. For instance, the relationship between you and your Jacksonville auto accident lawyer or between you and your doctor is a special type involving confidentiality and ethical obligations. Similarly, if you walk into a retail store, you have every reason to expect the owner or operator is maintaining the premises in a safe manner. In these examples, there is a special duty owed to you by the lawyer, doctor or shopkeeper. When you are driving on a highway, however, what duty does another driver owe you?
The Reasonable Person Standard
In any situation not calling for a special duty, each of us has the legal obligation to act as a reasonably prudent person would under the same or similar circumstances. In truth, as your Jacksonville auto accident lawyer can explain in greater detail, the “reasonable person” is a legal fiction; he or she does not exist and no set behavior for any one situation can be established. Therefore, in assessing an auto accident, a driver’s actual actions behind the wheel are analyzed objectively and compared to how a prudent driver would have operated the vehicle. This determination often involves other considerations.
Establishing how a reasonable person would have acted cannot be accomplished in the abstract; that is, other factors must be evaluated. Typically, a Jacksonville auto accident lawyer will look to such considerations as what the defendant actually knows, has perceived or has experienced. Additionally, a defendant will likely be charged with the general knowledge that everyone in the community should have. A reasonable person will consider such issues such as:
- The foreseeable risk of harm in the action taken versus the value
- The scope of risk created by the action
- The probability the action will actually injure another
- An alternative action that would lessen the risk and the costs and practicality of that alternative Act of Commission or Act of Omission
Importantly, negligence can be found if a person failed to act where a reasonable person would have. For example, if a person typically wears prescription lenses for distance and is involved in an auto accident while not wearing them, he or she failed to do what a reasonable, near-sighted driver would have done.
Although the majority of personal injury cases, and in particular auto accidents, never reach trial, it is important to consider that possibility and prepare as if it is inevitable. In many cases, a juror will think, “I wouldn’t have done that,” but that is the incorrect legal standard. It is not what any one person would have done; it is what a “reasonable” person would have done.
Contact a Jacksonville Auto Accident Attorney for Legal Advice
Auto accident claims are very much fact-specific, requiring a thorough investigation and knowledge of the law. For questions at any stage of your case, call Canan Law, a Jacksonville auto accident attorney, at (904) 824-9402.Google+