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What’s the Difference Between Recklessness and Negligence?

Posted in personal injury on February 16, 2021

If someone gets injured in an accident in Texas, that person may have the right to file a lawsuit for financial compensation through the civil justice system. The right to hold someone else accountable for the injury may exist if that person was negligent, reckless or malicious in causing the injury in question.

If you’ve been injured in an accident in San Antonio, learn the difference between recklessness and negligence to better understand the grounds for your claim.

What Is Negligence?

Negligence is the basis for most personal injury claims in Texas. In personal injury law, negligence is when someone unintentionally or carelessly causes someone else injury or harm. Cases involving auto accidents, dangerous premises, workplace accidents and most other accidents are generally founded on the legal theory of negligence.

Proving a defendant’s negligence during an injury case requires evidence that the following four elements are more likely than not to be true:

  1. The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. This is a legal obligation to act in a reasonable manner to avoid injury to others.
  2. The defendant breached a duty of care. The defendant committed an act or omission that went against his or her duty of care.
  3. The defendant’s breach of duty was the proximate or actual cause of the plaintiff’s injury. The injury would not have occurred but for the defendant’s mistake.
  4. The plaintiff suffered compensable losses. The accident gave the plaintiff real, specific damages, such as medical bills or property damage.

In a case based on negligence, it does not matter whether or not the defendant realized he or she was breaching a duty of care. If the defendant acted in a way that a reasonable and prudent person would not have in the same circumstances, the defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s injury. To base a case on recklessness, however, the defendant must have acted or behaved in a manner that would foreseeably cause injury.

What Is Recklessness?

Recklessness is a more serious type of tort than negligence. Under Texas law, it describes a situation in which a person knows the risks that will foreseeably arise from his or her actions but commits the act or omission anyway, regardless of the consequences to others. In other words, the reckless party had a wanton disregard for the safety of others.

A reckless person has substantially departed from what a reasonable, law-abiding person would do in the same situation. For example, if a driver had 10 alcoholic beverages and then got behind the wheel, this driver has exhibited a reckless disregard for how his or her actions might injure others.

How Does the Difference Impact Your Personal Injury Case?

Negligence is an unknowing departure from the duty of care, while recklessness is a knowing, willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others. The difference between these two types of torts can be important to distinguish during your personal injury case in Texas. Although both are acceptable grounds for a personal injury lawsuit, recklessness could result in punitive damages.

Punitive damages, unlike compensatory damages, are not meant to make up for a victim’s financial losses. Instead, they are awarded to punish a defendant and deter others from making the same mistake. Punitive damages are not awarded in every personal injury case. Instead, a judge reserves them for cases in which a defendant was grossly negligent, reckless or malicious in causing the victim’s harm. If you have a case based on recklessness, you may be eligible for punitive damages.

Consult With an Experienced Car Accident Attorney for Help

If you or a family member has suffered injuries in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness, consult with a personal injury lawyer in San Antonio right away. An attorney can help you identify the grounds for your case, collect evidence against the defendant and pursue the financial compensation you deserve.