The Difference Between Intentional, Reckless, and Negligent

A wrongful death lawyer, like from Mishkind Kulwicki Law, CO., L.P.A., are sometimes faced with the issue of whether a fatality or serious injury was the result of intentional, reckless or negligent misconduct. This blog will discuss the definitions of intent, recklessness and negligence, and also explain why the difference may be important in your particular person injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

The distinction between intentional, reckless and negligent misconduct may differ slightly from state to debt estate. Generally, intentional misconduct means that the wrongdoer acted with malice or intent to inflict harm. Examples of intentional misconduct include murder, assault and rape. An alternative definition of intent is conscious disregard or conscious indifference to the safety of another. Applying this definition, courts infer intent from a wrongdoer’s complete lack of concern for the safety of another. For example, intent may be inferred by the operation of a motor vehicle or heavy equipment by an individual who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Although the individual may not have intended to inflict harm, their behavior is so dangerous that harm was likely to occur merely as the result of abusing drugs or alcohol.

Intent may also be inferred in the workplace setting where an employer removes guards or other safety equipment thereby subjecting employees to an increased risk of harm. By intentionally subjecting an employee to a known harm, and increasing the risk of such harm, courts may infer that the employer intentionally caused injury. These are called workplace intentional torts.

Negligence is the result of carelessness or neglect. For example, when a physician fails to comply with accepted standards of medical care, he or she can be held liable for medical negligence. In a traffic setting, a car or truck driver can be held liable for negligence due to failure to pay attention to the road. Any traffic violation is considered to be negligent. Negligence also occurs when a property owner fails to warn about or remove hazards on the property that are not open and obvious.

Recklessness falls in the space between negligent and intentional misconduct. Recklessness usually requires egregious misconduct that raises the degree of malfeasance from negligence to gross negligence. For example, it is one thing for a driver to space out or temporarily lose focus on the road and thereby cause a collision. It is an entirely different matter for a driver to be distracted by texting on their cell phone or watching videos while driving, leading to extended periods of inattention.

Why is the distinction between negligence, recklessness and intent important in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits? First, when an individual acts with intent and thereby causes harm or death, they may be subject to criminal charges.  In the civil setting, an intentional or reckless wrongdoer may be subject to punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. On the other hand, when an individual acts intentionally, their conduct may not be covered by their own liability insurance. If the individual is not “collectible,” in the sense that they have assets from which a settlement or judgment can be paid, the loss of liability coverage means that the injured party cannot recover money damages for the harm that they have suffered.

If you or a loved one has suffered severe personal injuries or wrongful death as a result of the wrongdoing of another, a company or your employer, you should contact a personal injury or wrongful death lawyer in order to know your rights.