San Antonio Personal Injury Lawyers » Negligence vs. Recklessness
What is the Difference Between Negligence and Recklessness in Relation to a Personal Injury?
The terms negligence and recklessness may seem to be interchangeable, but legally speaking they are very different. Each of these terms will be described in detail to illustrate both their differences and their similarities.
What is Negligence?
In order to understand negligence you have to understand that it’s based on owing others a “duty” to not harm them. Basically, everyone has a duty to not to affirmatively act in such a way that you would create an unreasonable risk of harm to other people. However, this is not to be confused with a duty to be careful against events that may occur that are not reasonably foreseeable. In other words, if there is no way you could have predicted that a certain event would happen by your actions then you do not have a duty to act in a way to make sure you do not put another person into an unreasonable risk of harm. An example of an unforeseeable event would that you have no duty under which could you be held negligent is listed below:
Ray put Charlie onto a pony. Unknown to anyone there, the pony had a rare and strange disease that would cause it to collapse which resulted in Charlie breaking his leg.
Result: Ray has no duty because this was not a foreseeable event.
Moreover, you only owe a duty to foreseeable a plaintiff, which is illustrated below with the same scenario as above.
Ray put Charlie onto a wild house but then the horse kicked Charlie’s mom who was helping Charlie get onto the horse.
Result: They are both probably foreseeable plaintiffs because Charlie’s mom was near the horse.
What is the Standard of Care Used for Negligence?
Typically we will use an objective standard of reasonable care, which means the ordinary, prudent person. It is not necessary to delve into whether this particular defendant did his best to avoid the harm that occurred; just a reasonable standard is applied as opposed to that particular person’s abilities. As such, unintelligent adults will not get the benefit of being held to a lower standard of care in the instance that they are the subject of a personal injury lawsuit for negligent breach of duty of their standard of care. However, interestingly enough if the adult has greater knowledge and greater experience- that may be taken into consideration.
What is Recklessness?
In contrast, while negligence is often associated with personal injury lawsuits that are primarily civil matters- recklessness is typically associated with criminal actions. Recklessness is the basic decision to ignore a known risk, that the defendant is aware will likely cause some negative outcome. With negligence you simply need a duty, a breach of that duty, damages, (the resulting injury) and causation. The defendant need not necessarily know of the duty, they simply have to act in a way that an ordinary prudent person would not. A reckless person is a person who likely knows of this risk, yet chooses to proceed with his/her planned course of conduct regardless. This is the key difference between negligence and recklessness.
Establishing that a party’s conduct was negligent in a personal injury case can be exceedingly challenging. Depending on the claim, it can be even more difficult. For example, to prove a doctor’s negligence in a medical malpractice claim is very difficult because of the highly technical standard of care and details of that particular profession. If you feel that you have been victimized by the negligent conduct of a party and wish to seek legal relief, the experience attorneys at Our Law Offices are more than capable of handling your case. Contact us at for more details.