Standard of Care

In tort law, the standard of care is the degree of prudence and caution required of an individual who is under a duty of care.

• In certain professions, the standard of care is determined by the standard that would be exercised by the reasonably prudent professional in their area of work.
• This is the same standard that is used to determine whether a doctor is liable for medical or dental malpractice.
• A breach of the standard is necessary for a successful action in negligence.
• Whether the standard of care has been breached is determined by the trier of fact, and is usually phrased in terms of the reasonable person.
• In tort law, a duty of care is a legal obligation imposed on an individual requiring that they adhere to a reasonable standard of care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others.
• In order to proceed with an action in negligence, the plaintiff must be able to articulate a duty of care imposed by law which the defendant has breached. In turn, breaching a duty may subject an individual to liability in tort.
• It is not a requirement that a duty of care be defined by law, though it will often develop through the jurisprudence of common law. For example, doctors will be held to reasonable standards for members of their profession, rather than those of the general public in cases related to their fields.

Negligence is a legal concept usually used to achieve compensation for injuries (not accidents).
• Negligence is a type of tort or a civil wrong, but it can also be used in criminal law.
• Negligence means conduct that is culpable because it misses the legal standard required of a reasonable person in protecting individuals against foreseeably risky, harmful acts of other members of society.
• Negligent behavior towards others gives them rights to be compensated for the harm to their body, property, mental well-being, financial status, or relationships.

Negligence suits have historically been analyzed in distinct stages:
1. First, the defendant must have had a duty of care towards the claimant. The courts have long established that all persons have a duty to use that degree of care that an ordinarily prudent person would have used under the circumstances, so that, at trial, the existence of the “duty” is predetermined.
2. Second, obviously from the definition above, the claimant must show that the defendant has breached that duty by not exercising reasonable care.
3. Third, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s negligence contributed to cause harm to the claimant. the harm must not be too remote a consequence of the negligence; that is, the negligence must be a “proximate cause” of the harm.
4. Fourth, the claimant must be able to establish what kind of damages, or compensation, he should get for his or her harm.

The reasonable man or reasonable person standard is often used legal term that originated in the development of the common law.
• The “reasonable person” is a hypothetical individual who is intended to represent a sort of “average” citizen. The ability of this hypothetical individual to understand matters is consulted in the process of making decisions of law.
• The question, “How would a reasonable person act under the same or similar circumstances” performs a critical role in legal reasoning in areas such as negligence and contract law.
• The reasonable person is not necessarily the “average person”; it is not a “democratic” measure.
• To predict the appropriate sense of responsibility and other standards of the reasonable person, “what is reasonable” has to be the primary question. (What the “average person” thinks or might do is irrelevant to a case concerning specialized technical knowledge, such as advanced mathematics.)
• But the reasonable person is appropriately informed, capable, aware of the law, and fair-minded. Such a person might do something extraordinary in certain circumstances, but whatever that person does or thinks is always “reasonable.”