The Reasonable Man

By J. Thomas Mihalczo


 In case evaluation conversations, clients are often hit with a barrage of “reasonableness” from their attorneys including phrases like the reasonable man, the reasonable man of ordinary prudence, the ordinary prudent man of business, the officious bystander, the reasonable juror properly directed, and the fair-minded and informed observer. These are all ways of forming a standard which courts use in civil cases when solving a problem by asking, “well, what was reasonable?” or “would a reasonable man act this way?”

In the 1830s, Adolph Quetelet, a Belgian astronomer and mathematician, became fascinated with the concept of the “average man” or the “common man”. While Quetelet was first focused on mere physical statistics of the average man, such as height and weight, this concept of the “average man” eventually stretched into law.

As such, a few years after this concept from Quetelet, courts in Victorian England expanded on the “reasonable man”, transforming the idea into the man on the “Clapham omnibus”. The Clapam omnibus is actually referring to a bus route in London, the idea being that the reasonable man is the common or typical man who is reasonably educated.  Put simply, the reasonable man is the average man who rides the bus.

            In modern times, this standard is particularly valuable for clients who have become a victim of a tort, due to someone’s negligence.  At Bollwerk & Tatlow we routinely sue for negligent driving on behalf of motorcyclists, truck drivers, and other drivers who are injured in an accident through no fault of their own. In those cases, in order to recover monetary damages on your behalf, we often have to demonstrate that the responsible driver acted in a manner which was “unreasonable”, and therefore an accident occurred.

Therefore, if you are in a motor-vehicle accident, ask yourself:

·       “Did I drive in a manner which was reasonable under the circumstances?”

·       “Was my driving within what we would expect from a typical driver?”

If your answer to those questions is yes, we likely agree with you and will vigorously pursue compensation on your behalf. We will happily argue to the insurance company that we just want compensation that is reasonable, man.



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