I started out my BA/LLB conjoint studying psychology along with law. But quickly, I realised law is all about human relationships. The past two years have been so fascinating. Legal principles have dripped down into my everyday life and reasoning and I hope they’ve made me a better person. I’ve always thought, if I have children, I’ll raise them according to the judgements of the Supreme Court. Some of them are so fair and make such perfect sense. So here I have boiled down thousands of pages of textbooks and hours of class into the everyday person’s guide to being a person of “reasonable prudence and care.”
The Neighbour Principle
- Is someone so closely and directly affected by your act that you can reasonably foresee if you’re not careful, they might be harmed/negatively affected? If so, you should keep them in mind when you’re doing that act.
This really does apply to everything and has become an awful extra moral conscience on my right shoulder. It applies to an unfortunate number of household chores. When you’re negligent, you’ve failed to take reasonable care.
Foreseeability: if you can foresee someone will be affected
Everything runs around foreseeability. Can you foresee the kind of damage that will be caused? If so, the extent doesn’t matter. If you can foresee body injury will be caused, then mental injury is the same. The big thing in my own life is just thinking about whether someone will probably be affected by my act – I have to be reasonably careful.
Did you act reasonably? (did you take reasonable care in the circumstances?)
The law looks for prudence, certainty, and fairness – what you were able to do within the circumstances. It focuses a lot on the circumstances, and the positions of the parties. I’ve found that I’m a lot more considerate towards others when I take their circumstances into account. People spend long hours at work, they have frustrations, things they want to do but can’t, family obligations, time constraints, and so on. At the end of the day, it’s whether they did the best they could do, in the circumstances.
These common codes apply to everybody – the difference of the outcome depends on how you acted. This means I’ve focused much more on my actions, rather than what kind of person I believe myself to be.
- When someone is relying on you and you fail to take care, this is a very strong factor against you, because they’re in a weaker position and can’t protect themselves against your actions, or plan ahead. (if you give an honest warning you’re usually in the clear).
This has applied to responding to emails on time, working in a team, getting in touch with someone who is waiting for my response, not changing plans last-minute, etc.
The law LOVES creative solutions – what’s a reasonable remedy that isn’t disproportionate from the negligent act, and meets the injured person’s needs? Sometimes it’s money, other times it’s restricting the act to daylight hours instead of nighttime, or really addressing what the person needs in the circumstances. Sometimes an apology or money won’t fix it.
I’ve tried to incorporate this. Splitting things, instead of one taking on the whole burden/benefit (e.g. food, gifts, chores, etc). When I’m in the wrong, obviously an apology is good, but doing something about it is even better, e.g. replacing something I’ve broken, doing a favor, etc.
- Basically, when you’re making a decision, there are a range of factors you look at/weigh before coming to your conclusion. If you exclude an important factor, you can get told to make the decision again after looking at that factor. I hope this makes sense. How much weight you give that factor doesn’t matter at all, actually – the focus is on whether you thought about it.
This actually changed my thought process a lot. Instead of giving a lot of importance to one thing, I started to think about the range of things I think about in a day. What I’ve been considering in my everyday life, interacting with people. It’s also crucial in MOOD. What’s contributing to my mood/the kind of day I’ve had? For me, good days are when I’ve thought about all sorts of things, when I’ve kept up with the news or learned something about my family history, talked to my extended family, paid attention to the food I’m eating, learned something about science or math or non-degree related things, and asked myself what the people around me need from me. I often find that a day where I’ve thought about all this, even if just briefly, puts me into context with much bigger things and doesn’t let me overexaggerate small things.
There are many more, of course, but most of them are just common sense at the end of the day. What I’ve found so interesting is the collective, community sense law teaches. We all live in a society and interact with each other, enjoy the benefits, and have duties and obligations. These restraints all exist so that we don’t harm others in pursuing our own interests. It gives me a lot of hope watching the law evolve, and seeing how interests and values change. The standard for what society says is important becomes more and more inclusive, and ultimately makes a better world for everyone living in it.
The featured photo was retrieved from: https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/fashion/98518237/supreme-courture-judges-ditch-medieval-gowns-and-wigs-for-new-ceremonial-robes