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What is a reasonable person in a negligence lawsuit?

Most Baltimore residents would probably consider themselves to be reasonable. While individuals may have different definitions of who is a reasonable person, in the legal world, the phrase "reasonable person" has a specific meaning that applies in the course of a lawsuit.

In a personal injury lawsuit, for example, the injured plaintiff who is suing a defendant must typically establish that the defendant violated the standard of car. A driver in a car accident might have been driving too fast for the conditions, for instance, which can be viewed as a violation of the standard of care.

When it comes to the standard of care, drivers are held to a reasonable person standard. This means that drivers must act how a reasonable person would under the circumstances. In other words, a driver must act as a typical person with ordinary prudence.

Accordingly, the reasonable person standard is objective, rather than subjective. This means that a particular defendant's abilities or history usually does not play into the decision of whether the defendant as acting negligently.

For example, a recent hit-and-run accident occurred after a female driver struck and killed a bicyclist in Baltimore. The woman had a history of driving under the influence, including pleading guilty to some charges and having others dropped. It was unclear whether the woman was under the influence at the time of the hit and run, for which she later returned to the scene. An accident investigation is currently ongoing into the matter.

Typically, a defendant's history or individual circumstances does not play into whether the person was negligent to the degree individuals might expect. This is not to say this evidence is completely irrelevant, as that determination is made on a case by case basis. However, the negligence determination is viewed under an objective standard, and therefore the question is whether the defendant acted as a reasonable person would have under the circumstances, not what the defendant did or did not do in the past.

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