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What’s the Difference Between Negligence and Recklessness?

Oct 27, 2022 | Personal Injury

Personal injury lawsuits can arise from either a defendant’s “negligence” or “recklessness.” Although these words are often used synonymously to describe a wrongdoer’s actions, they define very different conduct. Critically, the degree of culpability can also determine the amount of compensation that’s awarded in a case.  

Filing a Lawsuit Based on Negligence

Negligence is comprised of four elements — each of which must be proven in order for a plaintiff to prevail in their personal injury lawsuit: duty, breach, causation, damages. In other words, the defendant had a duty to act in a certain way (or not act), and their failure to do so resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries.     

Common examples of negligence that might form the basis of personal injury actions can include:

  • Slip and falls on icy pathways due
  • Trip and falls on poorly maintained sidewalks
  • Car accidents caused by drivers running red lights
  • Dog bite injuries arising from owners taking their pets off leashes
  • Pedestrian accidents in crosswalks caused by distracted drivers

When a person or entity is negligent, they are careless. However, negligence is often determined by evaluating what a reasonable person would have done under the same circumstances. For instance, if a spill in the grocery store only occurred a few minutes before the accident, no reasonable person might have mopped it up in time. But if it happened an hour before the slip and fall, it could be argued that the store should have known about the hazard and cleaned it up.

Pursuing a Claim Based on Recklessness

When a defendant acts recklessly, they are indifferent to the consequences of their actions. Often referred to as “gross negligence,” recklessness is something much more than mere negligence — it is a total and complete disregard for the welfare or safety of others. A typical example of reckless behavior is a driver who operates their vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Recklessness occurs when someone knows there is a risk associated with their actions, but they put the plaintiff in harm’s way regardless. While a plaintiff who bases a claim on negligence may be entitled to recover for their economic and non-economic damages, a victim who was injured due to another’s recklessness may also pursue punitive damages. These types of damages are not meant to compensate the plaintiff, but rather, they are designed to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in similar conduct.

Punitive damages are only available in limited cases where the defendant’s conduct could be described as egregious, willful, and wanton. In New York, there is no cap on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded, which often results in substantial verdicts when they are available.

Because it’s much harder to prove recklessness than negligence, securing an award of punitive damages requires the knowledge and skill of an experienced personal injury lawyer. If someone else’s recklessness caused your injuries, it’s crucial to have a good lawyer who can fight for the maximum compensation to which you’re entitled.

Contact an Experienced New York Personal Injury Lawyer

Whether your injuries arose due to the negligence, carelessness, or recklessness of another, it’s vital to hold the responsible party accountable. At The Edelsteins, Faegenburg & Brown, LLP, we work diligently to obtain the monetary recovery that is rightfully yours. As a result of our commitment and dedication to our clients, we regularly secure substantial verdicts and large settlements on their behalf.

The Edelsteins, Faegenburg & Brown LLP is a personal injury law firm dedicated to fighting for the rights of accident victims to ensure they get the monetary recovery they deserve for their injuries. Located in Manhattan, our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout New York City since 1937. Call to schedule a free consultation at (212) 425-1999 today.




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