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Written by: Bill McCaslin
| Read Time: 3 minutes

Reckless driving and negligent driving are responsible for many accidents throughout California.

Both driving behaviors often result in severe injuries and extensive property damage; however, they differ.

If you suffered injuries in an accident, you might wonder, What is considered reckless driving or negligent driving?

When someone else causes your injuries in a car accident, you deserve to recover compensation for your harm and losses.

Read on to learn more about these types of driving behaviors and how a car accident attorney can help you. 

If you have questions, please contact us today.

What is Reckless Driving vs. Negligent Driving? 

After an accident, you may wonder whether the other driver’s conduct was to blame. You may be curious about the difference between reckless vs negligent driving.

Reckless driving is a specific crime in California that subjects a driver to criminal penalties, including jail time and fines.

It involves driving a vehicle on a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

This means the driver made a choice to act in the manner they did, knowing that their actions have a risk of significant harm.

Multiple activities may be considered reckless driving, including: 

  • Excessive speeding, 
  • Swerving or unsafe lane changes, 
  • Disregarding traffic signals, 
  • Intentionally driving with defective brakes, 
  • Tailgating, 
  • Illegally passing cars, 
  • Texting while driving
  • Driving on sidewalks, and 
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road.

Negligence, on the other hand, is a standard for determining whether someone should be held financially responsible for an accident.

To prove that another’s negligence caused a vehicle accident, you must establish the four vital elements of a negligence claim, including: 

  • Duty. The other driver had a responsibility to operate their car safely and reasonably. All drivers have a duty to comply with driving laws and use caution while driving.
  • Breach. The driver breached their duty. A person breaches their duty of care when they violate traffic laws or otherwise engage in behavior a reasonable person would not.
  • Causation. Causation means that the driver’s breach of duty causes an accident and resulting damages.
  • Damages. To recover for a negligence claim, you must prove the nature and extent of the damages you suffered as a result of the accident.

Proving negligence may seem straightforward, but it’s challenging without an experienced attorney.

Failing to establish all the required elements of a negligence claim could cause you to receive less compensation than you deserve. 

Is Reckless Driving Gross Negligence?

Gross negligence involves conduct more serious than ordinary negligence. It is an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of care.

However, reckless driving typically involves even more of an extreme departure, as it requires “willful or wanton disregard” for the safety of others.

Reckless Driving and Punitive Damages

If you suffered injury due to reckless driving, you may be able to seek punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.

While compensatory damages are limited to your actual losses, punitive damages serve to punish the wrongdoer and discourage similar conduct in the future.

You may be entitled to punitive damages in California if you can prove that the defendant engaged in fraud, oppression, or malice.

Similar to the reckless driving standard, malice requires proof that the defendant engaged in “despicable” conduct with “a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.”

If the person who injured you was also convicted of reckless driving, this could provide strong support for your punitive damages claim.

Your personal injury attorney can help you support your punitive damages claim by gathering evidence, photographs, accident reports, and other documentary evidence supporting your claim for recovery.

Contact a California Personal Injury Lawyer Today 

The injury lawyers at Wells Call Injury Lawyers are standing by to assist you with your needs.

While we cannot guarantee a particular outcome, our personal injury attorneys hold a strong track record of success, with hundreds of millions of dollars recovered for our past clients.

Our legal team is committed to helping accident victims protect their rights to get the financial support they need from the party that caused their harm.

Wells Call Injury Lawyers is focused exclusively on representing people who have been seriously injured or victimized by the wrongful or negligent conduct of others.

Contact us today for a free case review. You can count on us to work tirelessly to hold the at-fault parties accountable so you and your family can focus on your recovery. 

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