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Duty: The Reasonable Person Standard and Negligence

  • By:John Vitola

When one hears the word duty, they usually think of the obligations they have at their place of work, not negligence. Like we went over in the blog about negligence, there are many words that have a more specific meaning in its legal context. Duty is no exception to this. In terms of negligence, duty is one of the four elements that must be shown to have a successful claim against a defendant. A plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty to conform to a certain standard of conduct for the protection of others, including the plaintiff.

We are going to be focused specifically on the duty an individual has when they are driving a vehicle in Florida. This duty that a driver has comes from Florida Statute section 316.1925(1). This section states that:

“Any person operating a vehicle upon the streets or highways within the state shall drive the same in a careful and prudent manner, having regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and all other attendant circumstances, so as not to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person. Failure to drive in such manner shall constitute careless driving and a violation of this section.”

This statute places a duty on every driver on the roads of Florida to drive carefully. If you are careless when driving, then you likely have violated the statute. When the statute says you have to drive carefully, it is assigning a standard of care to all drivers. This particular standard is what is known as the reasonable person standard. Under this standard, a driver has to operate their car in a manner that a reasonable person would under the circumstances.


If the speed limit is 70mph and A is attentively driving 70mph in their car, then A is operating the car reasonably and has not violated their duty. However, in this same example, if A was going 70mph when there is heavy rainfall and it is nighttime, then A may be unreasonably operating their car and violating their duty. While A is not going over the speed limit in this situation, A may still satisfy the duty element of negligence if A hit another car.

Because of this, it is always important to drive reasonably and carefully given a particular set of driving conditions and circumstances. Being a mindful driver will not only keep you physically safe from harm, but can potentially protect you from being legally liable in an accident.

If you or your loved one has been injured in a car accident, call John today at 352-796-1390.

Posted in: Personal Injury Law

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