Reckless vs. Negligent Acts: How the Difference Impacts Your Case
People make mistakes all the time – it is part of being human. And, sometimes, these mistakes cause injury to another person. While such incidents are unfortunate and unintended, they do not always mean a person is liable under a personal injury claim. To be legally responsible, an injured party must show the other person acted with negligence or reckless indifference to the likely results. The terms negligence and recklessness may seem like interchangeable legal concepts, but the difference can have significant impact on the outcome of a case. Everyone has a duty to act with reasonable care when engaging in activities that could harm others, such as driving, providing personal services, or allowing visitors on their property. When this duty is ignored or neglected, the person who failed to act or acted irresponsibly is potentially obligated to pay compensation for any injuries that occur. This is considered standard negligence, and comprises the vast majority of personal injury cases. In some cases, though, a person’s conduct is particularly egregious, and may justify exposing them to additional liability as punishment, and to deter future incidents. Most commonly, this type of wild and careless conduct is associated with reckless driving, but it could apply to any situation where someone does not act with regard for others. A discussion of the difference between negligence and recklessness, as well as how this distinction impacts personal injury lawsuits, will follow below.
Negligence vs. Recklessness
Negligence and recklessness involve two distinct behaviors that can result in additional compensation for an injury. Negligence is more a case of a person “should have known better,” and specifically requires an injured party to prove a duty of care existed, that the duty was breached due to the defendant’s behavior, and the plaintiff suffered an injury because of the breach. Essentially, evidence a person acted unreasonably, given the circumstances, is the premise of a negligence case. Recklessness, on the other hand, focuses on the defendant’s state of mind, and reflects thoughts that are difficult to excuse. Recklessness requires the defendant know about an unreasonable risk to others, and decided to act in disregard of this information. Basically, recklessness means the person actually knew better, and decided to act anyway.
Typically, the damages an injured party can sue for are related to medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. However, in cases where recklessness occurred, it may be possible to request punitive damages to account for callous nature of the harmful event. An injured plaintiff has the burden of demonstrating punitive damages are justified, and thus, must present evidence the defendant had actual knowledge about the wrongful nature of the conduct (intentional misconduct), or acted with complete indifference to human life and the safety of other (gross negligence). Florida law does place a cap on the amount of punitive damages a defendant can be ordered to pay, and most cases will be capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000. Though, in cases where there is evidence the harmful act was motivated by financial gain, with knowledge of the high probability of injury, the amount of punitive damages increases to four times the amount of compensatory damages or $2 million. Further, the cap is completely eliminated if the defendant intended to specifically hurt the plaintiff, and did cause the intended harm.
Contact a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer
Injuries are never easy to accept, but when they are the product of another person’s negligent behavior, they become even more intolerable. The attorneys at the Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado understand your frustration, and want to help you hold the other person accountable for his/her careless acts. This full-service personal injury firm can handle a variety of personal injury claims, including complex cases. Contact us today for a free consultation.