Brasure Law Firm, PLLC

Car on road, symbolizing difference between negligent and reckless driving.
By: Chris Brasure

The Difference Between Negligent And Reckless Driving

Car Accidents

This article was updated: Feb. 3rd, 2023

Most traffic collisions are not caused by poor road conditions or by defective auto parts. As Edinburg car accident attorneys, we know that in most accidents, one of the drivers is at fault. And when a driver is liable in a traffic crash, it is almost always because he or she was driving either negligently or recklessly.

Exactly what is the difference between reckless vs negligent driving? If you are injured by someone who was driving negligently or recklessly, will you be able to prove it if you file a personal injury lawsuit?

How Is Negligent Driving Defined?

Although the precise legal language is different in each state, in a general sense, negligent driving happens when a motorist does not drive with reasonable care.

Negligent Driving

Negligent driving can include distracted driving, fatigued driving, and intoxicated driving. Negligent drivers often roll through stop signs and fail to use turn signals. If a negligent driver causes an accident, the presumption is that the driver did not cause the accident “on purpose.”

Nevertheless, in most motor vehicle accidents, negligence is the key element, and a negligent motorist who causes property damage or personal injury can be held liable for damages.

How Is Reckless Driving Defined?

You can drive negligently – for example, while you’re daydreaming or distracted – without necessarily driving recklessly. Reckless driving is driving with wanton or willful disregard for the safety of others. It includes running traffic lights, tailgating, and excessive speeding.

Reckless drivers who injure others will face serious criminal charges in Texas, and reckless drivers can also be held liable in personal injury cases for injuring others.

Under Texas law, reckless driving does not have to happen on a public street or highway. The law also applies to private properties such as parking lots at shopping centers and other public facilities.

What Is The Criminal Penalty For Reckless Driving in Texas?

A first reckless driving offense in Texas is a misdemeanor punishable upon conviction by up to thirty days in jail and/or a fine of up to $200. Convicted offenders may be ordered to perform community service or pay restitution to victims, and their driver’s licenses may be suspended.

woman sitting and leaning against her car after a rear end car accident

If a reckless or negligent driver injures you in a traffic collision, that person should compensate you for your losses and medical costs. The injured victims of negligence and recklessness are entitled to that compensation under Texas law.

How Can a Lawyer Help?

When you work with a qualified car accident law firm, an attorney’s task is to win the compensation that you are entitled to by proving that the other motorist’s negligent behavior or reckless driving was a direct cause of your personal injury or injuries.

Proving that the other motorist was driving negligently or recklessly is relatively easy in some cases.

For example, if you are injured by a driver who is convicted of a reckless driving or DWI charge arising from the accident, that conviction will be considered strong evidence of liability in a personal injury case.

But in other cases, proving that the other motorist was driving negligently or recklessly can be difficult. You’ll need a skilled and experienced accident attorney’s help.

What Does It Take to Win a Personal Injury Case?

Precisely what will an injury victim have to prove in order to prevail with a personal injury claim – and win compensation? The injury victim or “plaintiff” must prove that the other driver was reckless or negligent in a traffic crash by proving that:

1. The “defendant” (the other driver) owed the plaintiff a duty of care to avoid reckless or negligent driving.

2. Instead, the defendant drove recklessly or negligently and thus breached the duty owed to the plaintiff.

3. The defendant’s reckless or negligent driving was a direct cause of the plaintiff’s personal injury or injuries.

4. The plaintiff’s medical bills and other damages are monetarily quantifiable, and the law requires the defendant to pay that amount to the plaintiff.

How Do Lawyers Show That Drivers Were Reckless or Negligent?

In a personal injury case arising from a Texas traffic accident, a plaintiff’s attorney must first establish that a duty of care was owed by the defendant to the plaintiff. Motorists owe others the duty to drive responsibly, safely, and with reasonable caution and awareness.

one hand giving car keys to another hand

Secondly, a personal injury plaintiff’s attorney must show that the defendant breached the duty of care by failing to drive as a “reasonably prudent” motorist would drive in the same circumstances.

The third point that a personal injury attorney must prove is that the defendant’s breach of the duty of care was a direct cause of the defendant’s personal injury or injuries.

Finally, a personal injury lawyer will help a plaintiff determine what amount of compensation is appropriate and will then fight to acquire that sum on the plaintiff’s behalf.

What Are Some Tips For Avoiding Negligent Driving?

Every motorist in Texas can avoid reckless driving simply by adhering to the rules of the road, but to avoid negligent driving, you will need to take these additional precautions:

1. Eliminate distractions: Do not groom yourself, eat, or read as you drive. Put children in safety seats and pets in pet carriers. If you must use a phone or a GPS device, pull off the road cautiously.

2. Never drink and drive: Find a designated driver or summon a taxi, a limo, or a service like Uber or Lyft. Do not drive while under the influence of drugs either, even if those drugs are prescribed to you legally.

3. Always stay aware and alert while driving: In poor weather, school zones, and construction zones, slow down. Don’t drive if you feel fatigued, sick, or dizzy.

It’s not difficult to get injured in a traffic accident in this state. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, more than 250,000 persons were injured in traffic crashes in Texas in 2017.

When Should You Contact a Car Crash Attorney?

If you become a traffic injury victim in Texas because of a reckless or negligent driver, you have the right to compensation. You also have the right to an experienced car accident attorney.

Act quickly if you’ve been injured. In Texas, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims arising from traffic collisions is two years from the date of the injury or two years from the date when the serious injury was – or should have been – discovered.

man leaning over a two car accident

Don’t wait two years – or even two weeks – to seek an attorney’s advice. Evidence deteriorates rapidly, and witnesses quickly forget details. After you’ve been treated for your personal injury or injuries, take your case at once to a car accident attorney who is experienced in reckless and negligent driving cases.

By Brasure Law Firm, PLLC