While many people may use the terms ‘negligence’ and ‘recklessness’ interchangeably, these are two very distinct legal terms that carry with them different degrees of penalties under the law. At the very core, the difference between negligence and recklessness rests with intention. Both negligence and recklessness charges can occur under either civil or criminal law. If a person directly brings charges against another person or entity, the case will be a civil case. However, for criminal charges, the state or federal government will be the plaintiff prosecuting the defendant. Understanding the fundamental differences between negligence and recklessness can help you make informed decisions regarding your personal injury case.


If a person or entity owes some form of duty to another person, and breaches that duty, a victim may have the opportunity to file a claim for negligence. The definition of negligence is the failure to behave in the same or similar manner as someone in a similar situation, exhibiting ordinary prudence. The four elements of a personal injury case are:

  • Duty
  • Breach of Duty
  • Causation
  • Damages

This means that the person who was negligent had a duty to exercise care, they breached that duty by behaving negligently. Which was the direct cause of actual physical, emotional, or financial damages suffered by a victim.

An example of civil negligence could include a property owner who fails to warn guests or customers regarding dangerous or hazardous conditions on their property of which they have knowledge. An example of criminal negligence could include a medical practitioner providing an incorrect dose of medication that results in death, or killing another driver while operating a motor vehicle in a negligent manner.


Recklessness is considered a more severe behavior, as the person engaging in the dangerous activity has full knowledge that their actions are dangerous, yet proceed to engage in those behaviors anyway. Recklessness is a behavior that is difficult to excuse. In some cases, recklessness is also called “gross negligence.” In many cases, the person behaving recklessly knows that their actions are dangerous. But still continues willfully and wantonly with their hazardous and dangerous behavior.

Examples of reckless behaviors include driving while intoxicated that results in the death or harm to another person or letting a person who is a known dangerous driver use your car that resulting in injury to another person.

Contact an Experienced Personal injury Attorney

You have the legal right to bring charges against another person who behaved either negligently or recklessly. Whose actions directly caused your injuries. We can help you determine whether or not a recklessness or negligence charge is appropriate in your particular personal injury case. We welcome the opportunity to consult with you about the unique facts and circumstances of your accident. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney at Griggs Injury Law at (816) 474-0202 today.