Recklessness can be the basis for many types of personal injury claims. If a person was reckless, it means that the persons knew, or should have had knowledge that their conduct was likely to cause harm. 

This is a greater level of liability than negligence, but still less than intentional conduct. With recklessness, the person knowingly takes a risk that their actions will result in harm to the plaintiff.  

What Are Some Examples of Reckless Conduct?

Many state laws and statutes prohibit or criminalize reckless conduct, as they present unwanted dangers to people. Some examples of conduct that can be considered reckless include:

  • Drinking and driving (DUI)
  • Driving at dangerously high speeds in a residential neighborhood or an area where there are many pedestrians
  • Using illegal substances in a public area
  • Carrying concealed weapons without a permit
  • Storing weapons, toxic substances, or other dangerous items in areas where children can reach them (i.e., child endangerment)
  • Knowingly engaging in unprotected sexual activities, when the person knows that they have a sexually transmissible disease

The main factor in any recklessness claim is that the defendant had knowledge that their conduct was dangerous to those around them. Or, if the defendant didn’t know, the court will consider whether the defendant should have known that their conduct was dangerous. This may require the analysis of several factors, including the defendant’s age, education, mental capabilities, and whether or state of mind at the time.

What Are the Elements for Proving Recklessness?

Again, the specific details may vary by state, but proving recklessness generally requires that the following elements be met:

  • The defendant intended to commit the act in question
  • They knew that such actions would pose a risk of harm
  • The risk of harm is in itself unreasonable and greater than negligent action
  • The actor knows (or has reason to know) that others may be present and in direct harm’s way

Finally, recklessness does differ from intentional harm in many important ways. With recklessness, the defendant may not have intended that their actions caused harm to others, even though they were aware of dangerous risks. With intentional harm, the defendant actually intends for the victim to be injured by their actions. 

What Are the Legal Consequences of Recklessness?

Recklessness may subject the defendant to a civil personal injury lawsuit. This may result in the defendant having to pay damages to compensate for losses like medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and rehabilitation. In some cases, the defendant may also be subjected to criminal charges.

Recklessness may also cause some people who are normally immune to lawsuits to be held liable for damages. For example, government actors or health care professionals who may be immune to negligence suits can still be held liable if they are found to be reckless.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With Recklessness Laws?

Recklessness is treated very seriously by courts, since public policy discourages putting innocent bystanders at risk of harm.  If you have are facing any legal disputes, conflicts, or incidents involving recklessness, you should contact a qualified personal injury lawyer immediately.  Your attorney can explain how the recklessness laws in your area might affect your rights. In the event of a lawsuit, your lawyer will be able to provide you with legal advice and guidance during the proceedings.