What is the difference between negligence and recklessness?

By |2022-01-03T19:52:44+00:00March 25th, 2016|

When a person suffers injury in a car accident and pursues legal claims against another party, the case typically falls under negligence law. Sometimes, however, the case can involve reckless conduct. So what is the difference between negligence and recklessness?

Proving that another driver was negligent involves a multi-step process. First, the claimant must show that the other driver owed a duty of care to the injured person. This is a relatively simple step because people have an obligation to take reasonable precautions to not harm other people on the roadways. Next, the injured person has to prove that the other party somehow violated the safety responsibility that they owed to the claimant. Claimants often use evidence that the driver failed to follow driving laws, or traffic control devices, to prove this second step of negligence.

Under California law, the final two steps of negligence are that the claimant must prove that the other party’s actions were a cause of the accident, and that the accident resulted in injuries to the claimant.

Recklessness is like negligence, but it involves proving a couple of extra components. To show that driver acted recklessly, the claimant needs to prove that the driver’s actions involved a high probability of harm, and that the driver consciously disregarded those risks of causing harm to others. Under California law, a driver who acted recklessly may be liable for punitive damages, which are designed to punish the reckless actor and can allow the injured party to recover greater compensation than they would under negligence law.

Anytime a person in the Orange County area is involved in a serious motor vehicle accident, that person or their family should conduct a full investigation into the accident. The available evidence can help the injured person get compensation for medical expenses and other costs; and if the evidence shows that the other driver was reckless, punitive damages may also be recoverable.


About the Author:

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Doug Easton has practiced law since 1971. After 20 years of practicing with various large litigation firms, he founded the Law Offices of W. Douglas Easton in 1991 as a solo practitioner. In the years that followed, Doug’s sons Brian and Matt joined him in the practice and helped build the firm into a powerful force to help right the wrongs done to their clients. Much of their success over the years has stemmed from the dynamic created by the familial nature of the firm and how harmoniously they all work together, each of their individual strengths complementing and fortifying the group as a whole. Accordingly, the firm changed its name to Easton & Easton, LLP in 2014 to better reflect the true dynamic of the firm and Doug now serves as Managing Partner of Easton & Easton. In 2015, Doug was selected as a Top 100 Litigation Lawyer in California by The American Society of Legal Advocates. In addition, Doug is listed in Strathmore’s Who’s Who, and in 2008 was named its “Professional of the Year” in Medical Malpractice.
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