When you have been injured because of the wrongful act of another person, there are a number of legal theories that you can use to pursue compensation for your losses, but the most common claim is one based on an allegation of negligence. A lawsuit asserting negligence has three elements—components that you must prove to a court to successfully make a claim:
- You must show that the defendant failed to meet the required standard of care
- You must show that the breach of that duty of care “caused” the accident
- You must show that you suffered actual loss as a result of the accident
This blog addresses the first component of a negligence claim—the standard of care.
First, it’s important to understand that most of the laws governing personal injury have developed under what is referred to as the “common law.” The common law, which originated in England and has evolved over centuries, is derived from the opinions of judges, rather than from statutes or written laws enacted by legislative bodies. In many instances, the judicial opinions further clarify or construe the statutory law, but much common law has evolved in the absence of any written code.
One of the fundamental duties that has arisen from the common law is the concept of a duty or standard of care as related to personal injury. Essentially, this rule holds that everyone has an obligation, in all their actions in society, to behave as a reasonable person. So, when you are driving a car, building a house, maintaining residential or commercial property, designing or manufacturing a product, or even engaging in leisure activity, it is expected that you will only do those things that a reasonable person would do. If your behavior is reasonable, you won’t be held responsible for any injuries another person suffers because of your conduct. However, to the extent that your behavior deviates from the accepted standard of care, you can be found financially liable.
Unfortunately, the law provides little guidance as to what constitutes “reasonable” behavior. Instead, it’s typically a factual determination to be made by a jury, and, accordingly, can vary from case to case. The jury has absolute discretion to determine what constitutes reasonable behavior and whether your actions fell within the definition.
At the Cintron Firm, LLC, we offer more than 14 years of experience to people in New Jersey facing a broad array of legal challenges. Attorney Mark Cintron has worked as a prosecutor and has extensive courtroom experience, so he’s always ready, willing and able to protect your interests before a judge or jury. Contact our office online or call us at 201-791-1333 or 917-494-5695 to set up an appointment.