My name is Danielle Diaz. One of the things I've learned in life, both inside and outside the courtroom, is that it is important to not see others as your enemy. Even though you may see the prosecutor as your enemy, he or she is just trying to do a job. It may be possible that you can get a prosecutor or the judge to be sympathetic and get him or her on your side. In order to accomplish this, you need to understand the law. I feel that most individuals do not understand the law, which is why I was motivated to create this blog.
A core principle of personal injury law in America is the notion of reasonableness. This applies largely to the question of whether a reasonable person in a similar situation would make similar choices to the ones the defendant made. Let's look at how a personal injury attorney representing a plaintiff might look at this issue.
Is There a Professional or Regulatory Standard?
Generally, when there are professional or regulatory standards that apply to a situation, those standards prevail regardless of what the average person might think is reasonable. If there had been a known engineering flaw in a second-floor walkway prior to a collapse, for example, the main personal injury questions regarding reasonableness would be about what are the prevailing standards for building such a walkway. Then you'd go on to examine who among the contractors, subcontractors, designers, and property owners knew about the flaws and when they knew.
Not all scenarios are subject to specific professional standards. For example, there isn't a recognized standard for exactly when a spill should be mopped up from the floor of a grocery store. Most folks would reasonably assume that if someone slipped on a wet spot within second of a spill that the store probably isn't responsible for the incident. That opinion might change if the wet spot had been caused by something preventable, such as a known leak in the building's roof. Similarly, if the wet spot was knowingly left go for an hour, most reasonable people would probably have a problem with that.
A Legally Recognized Duty
There is also a question of what is known in personal injury law as a duty of care. Some circumstances bring on the assumption of a responsibility to not let others be harmed. Oftentimes, this duty is assumed when we invite others into places. When a store opens its doors, it takes on a duty to make a reasonable effort to prevent its visitors from getting hurt by keeping dangerous items out of the way and providing a safe space to walk.
Some scenarios involve circumstances that are dangerous enough that you're automatically liable if someone gets hurt. This is called strict liability, and it applies even if the liable party did directly do anything. For example, someone who owns a wild animal, such as a bear or a tiger, accepts strict liability for others' injuries while interacting with the animal. This occurs because a reasonable person would assume a wild animal might hurt someone.