Image of man on phone while operating motor vehicle.

What is the Difference Between Negligent Driving and Recklessness?

Tarun Sridharan Legal Editor & Attorney Contributor Read Time: 10 minutes

What is the Difference Between Negligent Driving and Recklessness?

Negligent and reckless driving cases may result in injuries and damages that are essentially the same. If there are similar injuries or damages to one’s property, you may wonder: What is the difference between negligent vs reckless driving? The latter tends to have worse consequences in many states across the nation. Negligent driving is typically a civil traffic offense, but reckless driving may be considered a crime.

There are a number of unique issues in car accident disputes involving either negligent or reckless driving. For guidance on how to proceed, it’s worth connecting to an experienced car accident attorney. Call 1-800-THE-LAW2 for a free consultation today.

Reckless Driving

What Is Reckless Driving?

Reckless driving includes unlawful and unsafe driving with a disregard for the safety of other motorists and pedestrians. Individuals who engage in reckless driving are aware of the risks involved with their actions behind the wheel, but continue to drive in a dangerous manner. A reckless driver has not only taken unnecessary risks, but do so in areas where the chances of injuries or damages are high.

Is Reckless Driving a Criminal Offense?

Due to the willfulness and intention of the driver, it is usually considered a criminal activity.

What Are Examples of Recklessness?

Examples of Reckless Driving Include:

  • Driving well above the speed limit
  • Not using turn signals when turning or changing lanes
  • Driving under the influence
  • Texting or talking on the phone
  • Refusing to stop at Stop signs and/or red lights
  • Failing to turn on lights while driving at night or in rainy conditions
  • Racing on public roads or illegal street racing
  • Knowingly operating a vehicle while intoxicated

Negligent Driving

How Do You Define Negligence?

Negligence occurs when drivers fail to use reasonable care while operating a vehicle, which could lead to personal injuries and damages to one or more vehicles. Drivers have a legal obligation to act in a certain manner that is dictated by law. When they proceed to breach that duty by acting in a particular manner, or failing to act at all, they are being negligent.

Recklessness VS Negligence

No. Unlike reckless drivers, negligent drivers do not know about the inherent risks associated with their behavior, which is why these accidents are often classified under traffic infractions.

What Are Examples of Negligence?

Negligent Driving Examples Include:

  • Unintentionally failing to provide a safe environment for other drivers and pedestrians
  • Incidents where the term “accidental” may be used to describe the event
  • Driving on private property without the owner’s consent
  • Driving under the influence of non-prescribed drugs or alcohol

Suing A Defendant For Negligent vs Reckless Driving

How Do You Win a Negligent driving Case?

If you’ve been seriously injured in a car accident, then you may be entitled to damages under the law. Though many plaintiffs aren’t aware, the potential compensation, and the legal strategy you pursue, could be influenced by the defendant’s actions.

What Is a Car Accident Case Example of Negligence?

Suppose a defendant was street racing when they collided with your vehicle. The car accident lawsuit will be different than if the defendant was driving at a reasonable speed but distracted. The street racing defendant would be considered a “reckless” driver, making it easier for you to hold them liable. Bonus punitive damages might also be available, depending on the circumstances.

Damages May Be Different

As a general rule, it’s easier to “scale up” the damages claim in a reckless driving case, as opposed to a negligent driving case. The driver that injured you not only is more likely to have caused serious injury, but also engaged in behavior for which a jury may feel like “punishing” them through a large damages award. Additionally, however, reckless driving cases may also provide ample opportunity for a punitive damages recovery.

What Is an Example of Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are bonus damages that multiply the baseline damages. For example, if your accident case is worth $50,000, then the punitive damages amount may be up to $350,000, for a $400,000 total recovery.

Who Gets Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are only available at the discretion of the court, however, and that too, only when you can show that the defendant-driver engaged in malicious or egregious misconduct that recklessly disregarded the safety of others.

Given the possibility of maximizing the damages award, it’s critical that you pursue punitive damages where it might be potentially available. Doing so requires the assistance of a skilled car accident attorney who has experience securing such damages for clients.

Consequences for Reckless Driving and Driver Negligence

What Is the Penalty for Negligent Driving?

Penalties for negligent and reckless driving differs by state and on the severity of the accident. Given the more serious nature of reckless driving, the consequences associated are greater than negligent driving. Negligent driving penalties may include:

  • Suspension of one’s driver’s license
  • Fines
  • And even imprisonment

Safe Driving Tips

Avoid reckless and negligent driving to keep yourself, fellow motorists, and pedestrians safe by following these tips for safe driving:

  • Allow plenty of time to get to your final destination. This will help you avoid speeding, changing lanes quickly without signaling, and overall aggressive driving.
  • Wear glasses and/or contact lenses when driving to see clearly, especially at night.
  • Avoid distracted driving such as texting, talking on the phone, eating, and playing with the radio. When engaged in any of these activities, it’s easy to go too fast, swerve into other lanes, and run traffic lights/signs.
  • Don’t drive under the influence. Always assign a designated driver, keep a local taxi number handy, or stay at a friend’s place. A conviction related to DUI can lead to license suspension and jail time.

Contact a Car Accident Attorney for a Free Consultation

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, then you may have a right of action against the defendant. Of course, depending on whether the defendant-driver was acting negligently or recklessly, the legal strategy, and damages, involved may change. It’s important to work with an attorney near you who understands how to navigate these challenges. We’re here to help you secure the compensation you deserve.

At 1-800-THE-LAW2, we maintain a network of experienced car accident lawyers who are standing by to provide a free consultation. Our agents will connect you to an attorney who can guide you through the litigation process after evaluating your case. Don’t delay. Call 1-800-THE-LAW2 to get connected today.

Our offices are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so we can assist you no matter when your accident occurs.

Call 877-322-1161 Schedule A Consultation
Minimize Chat End Chat