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Reckless Conduct Laws

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What Does “Reckless Conduct” Mean?

Reckless conduct is a type of legal theory that many types of personal injury lawsuits are based on.  Basically, reckless conduct is any type of conduct wherein the defendant knew or should have known that their actions would cause harm to another person.  Thus, reckless conduct is mostly dependent on the liable party’s state of mind at the time that the injury occurred. 

In order to be found liable for reckless conduct or recklessness, the plaintiff must usually prove that the defendant:

  • Intended to commit the act that caused the injury;
  • Knew, or had good reason to know that the conduct would present a risk of injury;
  • Knew that others might be present and in harm’s way

Also, to be held liable, the conduct itself generally needs to be unreasonable and of greater risk of harm than negligent conduct.

What are Some Typical Forms of Reckless Conduct?

Reckless conduct usually involves actions that are more dangerous than those in mere negligence cases.  These can include:

  • Driving with a disregard for traffic laws (i.e., speeding, drunk driving, failing to yield, etc.)
  • Unauthorized use or carrying of dangerous weapon
  • Intentional mishandling or abuse of toxic substances
  • Illegal use of fireworks (especially near children)
  • Engaging in rough play or sports in inappropriate areas (such as a mall or store)

Again, one of the main factors required for proving reckless conduct is whether or not the defendant knew of the dangers involved.  To prove this, a court will usually turn to various factors such as social standards towards the conduct, as well as the defendant’s background and experience.

What are the Legal Consequences for Reckless Conduct?

Reckless conduct can expose the defendant to legal liability through a civil lawsuit.  This would require them to compensate the victim(s) for losses caused by the reckless conduct.  This can include medical costs, lost wages, court costs, pain and suffering costs, and other expenses.  

Reckless conduct is generally a more serious violation than negligence.  As such, the defendant could face more strict consequences for reckless conduct when compared to negligence, especially if the recklessness is criminal.  Sometimes, this distinction can involve the same type of action.

For example, if the defendant didn’t know or have reason to know that their conduct was dangerous, it might result in a negligence claim.  On the other hand, if the defendant knew about the dangers but simply disregarded the risks, they will likely face a reckless conduct lawsuit.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Reckless Conduct Laws?

Reckless conduct is a serious violation that can sometimes be difficult to understand.  If you need help with the personal injury laws in your area, you may wish to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer immediately.  Your attorney can advise you on the laws in your state, and can represent you during any court hearings.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 08-03-2016 12:20 PM PDT

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