When determining whether negligence occurred in a car accident case, Virginia courts will seek to determine whether the allegedly at-fault party exercised the level of care that any “reasonable person” would have exercised given the circumstances. What, then, is a “reasonable person” in this context?
Virginia courts that need to decide if someone acted reasonably, in the way a reasonable person would have, will not consider the specific characteristics of the person who committed the alleged negligence. For example, they don’t look at how intelligent, educated or well-behaved the person is. They only compare the person’s actions to the way a typical or ordinary person would have acted. If the person did not act with this level of care, then he or she was negligent.
As an illustration, let’s say that a passenger is injured in a vehicle that slides on a patch of ice and crashes into a utility pole. The court will want to look at some important factors to determine if the driver employed the same level of care that a reasonable person would have employed leading up to the crash. The court will want to know how bad the weather conditions were. If they were so bad that a reasonable person would have refrained from driving for safety reasons, then the driver was negligent in deciding to drive despite the dangers.
Obviously, the notion of how a reasonable person would have acted can become an important point of debate in a personal injury case. Therefore, it is important that plaintiffs and their attorneys consider all of the facts of the case closely in order to prove that negligence did in fact lead to their accident and injuries.
Source: FindLaw, “Standards of Care and the Reasonable Person,” accessed Jan. 26, 2016