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What Does the Reasonable Person Standard Impose on a Person in a Negligence Lawsuit?

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In a negligence lawsuit, the “reasonable person” standard imposes a duty to act as a reasonable person would in the same circumstances.

In other words, individuals have a duty to act with the level of care, caution, and competence expected of a hypothetical reasonable person in the defendant’s situation.

The reasonable person standard is woven throughout negligence law in Florida, shaping the basic test for negligent conduct that lawyers must prove to win a personal injury claim.

The reasonable person standard in a negligence lawsuit

The reasonable person standard is fundamental to negligence lawsuits in Florida. This standard establishes the degree of care that an ordinary, prudent person would exercise in the same situation.

Florida statutes that codify the elements of negligence incorporate the reasonable person standard. Plaintiffs must prove the defendant failed to act with the level of care a reasonably careful person would exercise under the circumstances.

Florida jury instructions explicitly describe the reasonable person standard as the benchmark for evaluating negligence. Jurors must compare the defendant’s conduct to that of a hypothetical reasonable person facing the same circumstances.

Reasonable foreseeability of harm and reasonable steps to reduce known risks help shape a defendant’s duty under this standard. Breach of duty is determined by failure to exercise reasonable care.

Courts in Florida rely on the reasonable person standard when analyzing the duty of care and breach of duty in a negligence case. Compliance with statutes or regulations, while considered evidence of reasonableness, does not conclusively establish it.

Exceptions may impose a higher standard for professionals offering services. But for most negligence claims, the basic reasonable person test defines the requisite level of care.

This objective, reasonable person standard also factors into determinations of comparative negligence, where a plaintiff’s damage award may be reduced based on their failure to act with reasonable prudence.


Florida Statutes. Civil Actions to Enforce Rights.