Understanding the Reasonable Person Standard in a New Jersey Injury Claim

Posted on behalf of James Lynch on March 28, 2024  in Personal Injury News. Updated on April 10, 2024

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The reasonable person standard is a legal concept used in personal injury cases as a basis for assessing whether a defendant’s actions amount to negligence.

In this article, Lynch Law Firm, PC explains what the reasonable person standard is, when it may be used and how it could impact your personal injury compensation case.

If you were injured by another party’s negligence, you may benefit from having an attorney manage your case. We offer a free case review with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys in New Jersey. During this meeting, you can get answers to your questions and find out if you may have legal options for recovering compensation for your damages.

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What Is the Reasonable Person Standard?

The reasonable person standard is a legal concept attorneys use in certain personal injury cases. This concept serves as a basis for determining whether the defendant exercised the level of care and caution that a reasonable and prudent person would have taken in a similar scenario. If the defendant is found to have failed to act with an appropriate level of care, he or she could be considered negligent.

Does a Reasonable Person Exist?

The reasonable person standard does not refer to a real person. Rather, attorneys use this concept in a civil case to compare a defendant’s actions against those of a hypothetical, but reasonable and prudent person. The definition of a reasonable person may vary from case to case, depending on the circumstances.

What Are Some Examples of the Reasonable Person Standard in a Personal Injury Case?

Some examples that show how a reasonable person would behave include:

  • Reasonable drivers: A reasonable person would not risk harming themselves or other drivers by running a red light. If a defendant runs a red light and causes a crash due to his or her negligence, they might be liable for damages.
  • Reasonable doctor: A reasonable doctor would take the appropriate steps and perform the necessary tests to determine if a patient has a heart problem. If a doctor is involved in a malpractice case because they failed to take proper steps, causing them to misdiagnose a patient, they may be liable for any resulting damages.
  • Reasonable business owners: A reasonable person would take the proper steps to keep their facility safe for its customers and visitors. Some reasonable steps that may be taken to ensure the safety of others include:
  • Cleaning floor spills as soon as possible.
  • Replacing broken tiles.
  • Using warning signs where there are spills or around hazardous areas.
  • Ensuring there is adequate security or surveillance on the property.
  • Fixing broken light fixtures on the property.
  • Reasonable nursing home caregivers: A reasonable caregiver or facility would be diligent to ensure residents receive the proper medication at the right dose. Say that a caregiver or nursing home fails to follow proper medical procedures and administers the wrong medication or gives the wrong dose to a resident. If this medication error causes the resident to suffer serious or fatal harm, both the caregiver and the nursing home may be liable.

Are There Exceptions to When the Reasonable Person Standard May Apply?

While the ‘reasonable person standard’ serves as a benchmark to evaluate a defendant’s actions, the application is not always straightforward. Various factors can modify its standards based on the defendant’s circumstances and potential liabilities.

Below are scenarios where the reasonable person standard may be adjusted to reflect a defendant’s specific situation:


The reasonable person standard typically does not apply to young children, as they are not as mature and do not possess the same life experience as adults. Their actions would be evaluated based on their age group.

For example, say a 5-year-old child is playing in a park and encounters a ‘Do Not Enter’ sign near a construction zone. In this situation, the child might be curious but not able to recognize the danger. In contrast, an adult would understand the risk and know that it is unsafe to enter.

Individuals With Certain Mental or Physical Disabilities

Individuals with mental or physical disabilities may not be capable of making decisions or determining what actions may or may not be reasonable. Sometimes, these individuals are accompanied by a caregiver or nurse or someone else responsible for their safety. Depending on the scenario, the caregiver or nurse could be considered negligent.


Doctors, officers, and financial advisors are held to a higher standard than the average person due to their profession, specialized training, experience and education.

In malpractice cases, a judge or jury may have specific expectations for doctors with a certain level of experience. For instance, a surgeon might be liable for an injury stemming from a procedure they performed if there was something in the patient’s medical history indicating it could be dangerous. A surgeon is expected to have the experience and knowledge to recognize when a patient should not undergo a certain type of surgery.

Can the Reasonable Person Standard Impact Damage Recovery?

The reasonable person standard helps to clarify whether a defendant in a civil case may have been negligent in a manner that led to an accident and caused someone else to suffer harm.

Determining Liability

If a defendant’s actions do not match those of a prudent and reasonable person, they can be held liable. This means they could be financially responsible for covering the plaintiff’s medical costs, lost wages and other losses.

Comparative Negligence

In some cases, both the defendant and plaintiff can be found negligent. In this situation, New Jersey’s comparative negligence rule would apply. However, if you are not more than 50 percent at fault, you may still be eligible to recover a reduced amount of compensation. Under the law, any compensation awarded would be reduced by your percentage of fault.

If you are assessed with more than 50 percent of the fault, the law prohibits you from recovering any compensation for your damages.

Other ways the reasonable person standard may impact victims’ cases include:

  • Negotiating Settlements: The reasonable person standard can be utilized to leverage higher compensation amounts during the negotiation process.
  • Persuading the Jury: In trial cases, the plaintiff could use the reasonable person standard to persuade the jury towards a verdict that is more favorable to them.
  • Establishing Future Precedent: A case could establish a precedent that influences updated legal standards.
  • Calculating Damages: If an individual is found not to have met the reasonable person standard, an attorney could leverage this to calculate and argue for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering compensation.

Injured Due to Someone Else Negligence? Contact Lynch Law Firm Today

Dealing with the aftermath of a personal injury can be challenging. At Lynch Law Firm, PC we are dedicated to supporting our client through challenging times.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, we strongly encourage you to call our law offices. Our firm has a proven history of success, and we are prepared to fight for the compensation you deserve.

Call to request a FREE case review today. If we determine that you have a case and choose our firm to represent you, there are no upfront costs or fees to pay.

Call today. We are here to help you. (800) 518-0508

* Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances.

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