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Negligence vs. Recklessness: What’s the Difference?

Negligence vs. Recklessness: What’s the Difference?

In January 2023, there were over 7,000 car accidents involving over 15,000 people in New York City. Nearly every accident that involved an injury or fatality had negligence or recklessness as a contributing factor. Unfortunately, that’s the truth about most car accidents. Human error is almost always the reason that people are hurt or killed.

If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered a severe injury due to the negligence or recklessness of another, the skilled car accident attorneys at Silberstein, Awad & Miklos are here to help. Contact our law firm today to schedule a free consultation.

Definition of Negligence

Negligence is an error in judgment that directly results in harm to another. For an act to count as negligent, the actor must be bound by a duty of care; this means that they are supposed to take reasonable measures to prevent harm to others and are aware of this duty. In addition, the damage caused by a negligent act is not intentional.

Most car accidents that result in injuries are due to an act of negligence. Some common examples are:

  • Talking on the phone or looking at a text while driving
  • Forgetting to look both ways at an intersection
  • Not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign
  • Driving too quickly on a wet or slick road
  • Driving too close to the car ahead
  • Driving while tired

Most drivers are mildly negligent while driving. However, most of the time, this negligence doesn’t cause any harm. They may have a near miss or need to brake suddenly, but no one gets hurt. It is only when negligence results in injuries that they matter. That’s when the question needs to be asked: Should a reasonable person have been more careful?

Definition of Recklessness

The question changes when trying to determine whether a person is reckless. The new question is: Should a reasonable person have known that the act was likely to injure another?

When a person is aware that an act is likely to harm another and chooses to perform it anyway, they are being reckless; this still differs from an intentional act. A person who harms someone recklessly isn’t trying to cause harm. They just knew it was likely and didn’t care.

A reckless act is considered a substantial deviation from what a reasonable person would do in a particular situation. Some examples of recklessness that result in car accidents are:

  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Fleeing from a police officer
  • Intentionally running a red light
  • Driving the wrong way on a one-way street

There is no clear dividing line between a negligent and reckless act. But typically, a reckless act shocks the sensibilities in a way that negligent acts usually don’t.

Consequences of Recklessness vs. Negligence

Regardless of whether someone was negligent or reckless, they are liable for any injuries you suffered due to their actions. But that doesn’t mean the difference won’t impact your case.

If another party is found to have acted recklessly, you will usually be eligible to receive punitive damages. This means you can be awarded additional money, even if it exceeds the amount you owe for expenses or losses you suffered due to the accident.

Typically, when the other party is negligent, you only receive compensatory damages. These damages cover expenses you incurred (like medical bills) and any losses you suffered (like lost wages) from the accident.

While compensatory damages cover some unanticipated expenses, like long-term therapy and transportation costs, they only pay you enough to replace the money you have spent, expect to spend, or would have received otherwise.

Punitive damages go above and beyond that. You can receive thousands, or even millions, of dollars beyond your losses and expenses to compensate for the other driver’s actions.

Experienced New York Car Accident Attorneys

If you were injured or your loved one was injured or killed due to negligent or reckless driving, New York law allows you to receive compensation for that harm. But you can’t afford to wait while medical bills pile up and memories fade.

Consult with a car accident lawyer from Silberstein, Awad & Miklos as soon as possible to determine how much money you can collect and what damages you are owed. Schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation today.