Standards of Care in Injury Lawsuits

The applicable standard of care in an injury case is a standard that would be exercised by a reasonable person under similar circumstances to avoid risks of harm to others. This standard can vary depending on the person or persons involved in the accident or injury causing event. For example, the standard of care may be different if a child is involved or person with a mental disability. Establishing what the standard of care is must happen before a breach of that standard can be established. As a result, the standard of care that will apply to any given case is critical to establishing the legal case for negligence. Here’s a breakdown of some of the nuances involved in determining what standard of care applies to any given injury claim. As always, every state is different and this is a general overview only. Schedule a free consultation with one of our personal injury lawyers to discuss your individual case.

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Injuries Involving Children

Typically, the standard of care where a child is involved is one of reasonable children of the same age, intelligence, and experience. A child’s actions will be measured against a similar situated child of the same age, intelligence and experience level. There are exceptions. For example, in general, if the activity that the child engaged in is deemed to be inherently dangerous (i.e. the operation of powerful mechanized vehicles), an adult standard of care might be used. Again, this depends on the jurisdiction involved in the injury case.

Injuries Involving Persons With Mental and Physical Disabilities

Under general principles of injury law, neither insanity nor mental deficiency will relieve a person from liability. That being said, the standard of care that such a person owes to the general public is a bit different than one without the same disability. The standard of care is typically one of a reasonable person under similar circumstances. That means the mental disability itself should be incorporated into the analysis of whether a duty was breached. A physical disability is considered part of the circumstances. Ordinary care is such care as an ordinarily prudent person with a like disability. In both instances, a person with the same or similar mental or physical disability will be used as the benchmark comparison. There are also further exceptions given the circumstances and particular state law involved in the injury. For example, in some jurisdictions, a mentally disabled person who is involuntarily hospitalized may not owe a duty of care to his professional caregiver and is potentially not liable for negligence causing caregiver harm.

Injuries Involving Those Persons With Superior Knowledge

When it comes to individuals with specialized knowledge, the standard of care can be said to be heightened. The applicable standard of care not to injure others will usually contain a consideration of that particular knowledge or intelligence. If a person has a specialized intelligence or knowledge to recognize a certain risk, the person is generally going to be required to exhibit a standard of care that encompasses those superior qualities reasonably under the circumstances. This type of analysis can be critical in a professional negligence or malpractice case because doctors, dentists and other medical professionals are usually held to this higher standard due to their knowledge and education.

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