Reasonable Person Standard

reasonable person standard

What is the reasonable person standard definition? Everyone has their own personal view regarding personal responsibility and how we, as people, should act. However, this reasonable person standard comes into question whenever a discrepancy in the degree of care arises. When one person lacks the degree of care that another person expects, who’s subjective opinion holds more weight? If an injured party claims their injury was caused by third-party negligence, a jury must decide whether the defendant acted negligently or whether they acted in a way that a reasonable person would under those same circumstances. 

For example, a care sitter for your children decides to leave the kids at the house and get food. Say that an injury occurs while the sitter is gone. In this case, the parents believe that the sitter demonstrated negligence by leaving the children at home unattended. However, before the parents can deem the sitter responsible for the injury, a court or jury must first determine if a reasonably prudent person would have acted the same way in a similar situation.

In order to create a reasonable person standard, a court must take extra measures to first compare the act to what a reasonable person would do given the same circumstances. The further the defendant’s actions deviate from the objective standard practice, the greater the chance that negligence caused the injury.

When the defendant’s negligent conduct results in an injury, a court will have more evidence to support a more substantial personal injury case.

If you or someone you love has suffered from a personal injury due to someone else’s negligence, call Curcio & Casciato at 312-321-1111 today. During your free consultation, we can help you determine whether or not you have grounds to file a personal injury claim.

What is Considered a Reasonable Person in a Negligence Case?

An individual who uses caution approximately yet takes action appropriately to any given situation is considered a “reasonable person.” The term is a legal standard that creates a basis for defining the actions that make someone a reasonable person, or the opposite, in a negligence case.

For negligence in personal injury cases, courts will need evidence that:

1. The defendant owed you a duty of care.

2. This particular duty of care was breached.

3. That breach caused or directly led to your injuries.

4. Those injuries resulted in damages.

When analyzing the negligent actions of a person, an objective test can help the jury and court of law make an overall decision. The test itself will determine how a typical person would have acted in the same situation with the same circumstances involved.

The jury must ponder, would a reasonable person in the same situation act differently than the defendant acted? Would the reaction be different from a reasonable person in the same scenario? Under those circumstances, would a reasonable person have performed differently?

Is the Reasonable Person Test Objective?

The reasonable person test is the most objective standard possible.

The law expects a reasonable professional adult to uphold their duty as an individual and act in a reasonable way. The same standard should apply across the board, in the court of law.

Courts, police officers, and other law enforcement use the objective test to determine adequate standards for someone relevant to the same age, situation, etc.

The reasonable person test aims to provide the jury with the most uniform standard possible for an unlimited range of scenarios. While the judge and jury must ultimately decide what is reasonable in the given situation, they should base this decision on the hypothetical, reasonable person with the same knowledge and skill as the defendant.

While the hypothetical person will change from case to case, this standard ensures that all defendants are treated fairly – that we aren’t holding a child to an experienced surgeon’s standard and vice versa.

For example, if an adult acts in a way that falls below the expected behavior of a reasonable person, and a child acts in the same manner, the adult is automatically held to a higher standard than the child. Children who exhibit negligence in similar circumstances are still held accountable, however, the liability of an adult is more significant.

While the objective tool still pertains to children, the courts and jury must take appropriate measures for a child who does not yet understand the severity of the damages caused.

How Does the Reasonable Person Standard Affect Your Personal Injury Claim?

For a personal injury accident claim, the plaintiff will need to prove that the defendant acted in an unreasonable manner, and that an ordinary person would not have acted in the same way.

For many claims, this means that your personal injury lawyer must demonstrate that the potential harm caused was, in fact, a foreseeable risk. And, therefore, the defendant’s actions didn’t meet those outlined by the reasonable person standard.

In order to win a negligence case or prove that the defendant is liable for actions that deviate from the accepted standard of care, there has to be a legal standard for what constitutes negligent behavior.

No two cases are exactly alike. The facts that make up each individual personal injury case will never be identical, so the court system is tasked with the never-ending challenge of determining negligence. Many states, including Illinois, base the determination of negligence on the reasonable person standard. 

So, put quite simply, the reasonable person standard dictates whether or not you have a valid personal injury claim.

Exceptions to the Reasonable Person Standard

The reasonable person standard is just one example of how our legal system tries to protect the innocent from negligent acts – whether these actions come from police officers, medical professionals, teachers, or even government officials.

While the reasonable person standard will vary depending on the situation, location, and factors surrounding each accident, the exceptions to this standard are few.

We assume that personal injury claims stem from genuine, unintentional accidents. However, this may not always be the case.

The justice system recognizes specific characteristics that either excuse groups of individuals from liability or hold extreme liability on them. Exceptions to the reasonable person standard include situations involving children, mental disability, physical disability, or even cases with extraordinary skill sets or knowledge.

The exceptions to the reasonable person standard are put in place to protect those who may find themselves in unfair legal situations and to discourage malicious individuals from taking advantage of situations.


Children are an exception to the reasonable person standard. A modified standard of law, such as the attractive nuisance doctrine, is often provided when determining negligence in a child’s case. Children are not expected to act or understand situations at the same level as adults.

In rare cases where children do get sued for negligence, the courts and jury will decide a reasonable person standard based on certain factors like the child’s experience, age, and intelligence. 

Mental Disability

If an individual has a mental disability, he or she will also qualify as an exception to the reasonable person standard.

Should a person suffer from a mental condition that prevents them from acting as a reasonable person would, a rare chance that they may be found liable for negligence does still exist.

So, when a jury determines liability in a court of law, a mentally disabled person may not be found guilty if the disability:

  1. Impacts a person’s ability to understand the care, responsibilities, and duties surrounding the accident; or
  2. Causes a person to have little to no control over their actions.

Physical Disability

Those who are physically disabled are another exception to reasonable person standards. To be included in this category, a person must be paraplegic, deaf, or blind.

Individuals that are excluded from the physical disability exception are those who do not have a condition that expressly prohibits certain actions. This includes poorly sighted individuals, elderly individuals, people with poor coordination, etc. 

Extraordinary Skills or Knowledge

The courts hold those with extraordinary skill or knowledge to a higher standard – one that takes their skillset into account. Typically this applies to lawyers, doctors, engineers, police officers, etc.

Instead of being judged by the reasonable person standard, they are judged based on the average knowledge and skill for their particular industry. 

So, for example, a physician will be held to the standard of a reasonably competent physician.

Behavior that is consistent with the established practices within a person’s profession is less likely to be considered negligent.

As an individual gains knowledge and experience, the standard of expectations also rises. 

Proving Negligence Using the Reasonable Person Standard

The reasonably prudent person legal standard is an objective standard used by the courts to determine whether or not the defendant’s conduct is acceptable.

A reasonable person is defined as one who portrays ordinary prudence.

When proving negligence, the jury must determine what a prudent person would do in the given situation.

This determination hinges on the defendant’s conduct and how closely the actions compare to what a typical person would do given the same situation and circumstances.

Our experienced Chicago personal injury attorneys at Curcio & Casciato understand the way our legal system operates. When we present the facts of your personal injury case, we’ll showcase how and when the negligence occurred, giving the jury no choice but to determine that the defendant did not act as a reasonable person should.

If you’ve been injured, and you think a reasonable person would have acted differently in the same situation, call our personal injury law firm today.

How Our Chicago Personal Injury Law Firm Can Help

Call Curcio & Casciato if you or a loved one suffered an injury due to another’s negligence. Our personal injury lawyers will discuss your unique situation through a free consultation. Our attorneys will do their absolute best to prove the defendant is liable for your damages. We will work with you and your loved ones to get the maximum compensation for the injuries you sustained as quickly as possible. Call us today at 312-321-1111 today.

Share this post