What is Recklessness in Personal Injury Law?

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Usually, recklessness warrants litigation against the responsible party. The responsible party is liable. This means they are responsible for injuries another person sustains when they choose to be careless. Under the law there are four principles of liability. These principles are: intent, recklessness, negligence, and strict liability. Depending on the form of litigation, any of these principles leaves the reckless party liable for pain and suffering.

This writeup looks at the four basic principles of liability. Also, we’ll discuss the basis for which a civil case involving recklessness occurs. If the four principles of liability can’t be met, the case may be dismissed by the judge. This means the defendant may not be held liable for their actions.

We’ll answer the following questions:

  • What are the four principles of liability?
  • Is it recklessness or negligence?
  • What are reckless acts in Personal Injury Law?
  • An example scenario
  • What constitutes reckless behavior under the law?

What are the four principles of liability?

  • Intent: this is “willfulness” and its definition is “a person with an accusation against them of intentionally causing harm to another human being”.
  • Recklessness: the basis for this article and, implies the person knew (or at the very least should have been aware of) that his or her actions were likely to cause harm to another.
  • Negligence: it’s important to reiterate that this is the definition of a person or persons acting in a way that is a violation of their duty to another. With the breach of said duty they’re causing harm, injury, or death.
  • Strict liability: this, under the law, is reserved for cases where a defendant can be held liable for injury or accident caused regardless of their mental state.

Is it recklessness or negligence?

Recklessness itself involves a lack of conduct to such a level that is short of actual intent to cause harm but exceeds negligence. When it comes to negligence, it’s defined under the law as occurring when a person unknowingly takes a risk. Recklessness is the opposite: the party involved in the harmful actions was aware of the risk being taken and acted regardless of the consequences.

What are reckless acts in Personal Injury Law?

When proving recklessness, the determination is both subjective and objective. This is something that doesn’t differ under the law. Recklessness is always due to a person or persons taking a known risk regardless of the outcome it could have on another human being. The definition doesn’t change even when the circumstances differ. Remember, every personal injury case is unique, and the circumstances are never the same twice. However, recklessness holds the same definition under the law.

Let’s review the steps that are used to prove recklessness:

  1. Looking at what the defendant knew or is believed to have known when the injurious act initially occurred. This is subjective.
  2. Considering what a reasonable person in that same such scenario would have been thinking if he or she were in the same situation as the defendant was. This is considered objective.
  3. Both subjective and objective tests rely on a line of thinking known as “conscious awareness”; this means whether the defendant knew or should have known his or her actions may be the cause of injury to another person.

An example scenario

In this example we’ll consider a defendant being accused of reckless driving:

Driver A sees the posted speed limit as they approach a residential neighborhood but is in a hurry to get to work. Driver A knowingly exceeds the speed limit by more than 25mph knowing they could cause a traffic accident.

They read the posted signs and are aware of the rules of the road within a residential neighborhood as they drive through this area on a daily basis. Today they are late and ignore the rules of the road, sideswiping Person B who was going the posted speed limit.

Driver B suffers a concussion as well as broken bones and has to take excessive time off work to recover from the accident. Driver A would now be said to have committed an act of recklessness, as they knew the consequences of speeding and were also cognizant of the speed limit but chose to ignore it in favor of getting to their destination more quickly. Because of Driver A‘s knowledge that their actions could cause harm, Driver B now has the legal right to sue Driver A by retaining a Personal Injury lawyer and seeking damages for their totaled vehicle and their pain and suffering.

Below are a few more examples of risky or reckless behavior:

  • Drinking and driving
  • Texting while driving
  • Use of illicit substances in public or to an excess of which causes serious impairment
  • A concealed weapon without proper licensure and training of the weapon’s proper handling
  • The storage of a firearm, unlocked in a home where children live or are present often

What constitutes reckless behavior under the law?

There are several instances in which it becomes clear the defendant engaged in reckless behavior:

  • The defendant runs a red light knowing it may cause a car accident. Due to speeding, they hit another car and cause the driver to sustain serious injuries.
  • The risk is unreasonable (texting and driving, eating and driving, running a red light).
  • The risk is excessively greater than an act of negligence
  • The defendant knows or has reason to believe that other human beings present could come to harm, but chooses to act anyway.

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