If you get injured in an auto accident in Arizona, you may hear two different terms during your injury claim: negligence and recklessness. These two terms have different definitions on a legal level. They also come with different ramifications for the at-fault driver. Finding out whether you are dealing with a negligent or reckless driver in your motor vehicle accident claim can help you fully understand your legal rights.
Definition of Reckless and Negligent Driving
According to Arizona Revised Statute Section 28-693, a reckless driver is someone who operates a motor vehicle with a reckless disregard for the safety of other people or property. This crime is a class 2 misdemeanor in Arizona, punishable by a fine, probation and possible jail time. If the driver has been previously convicted of a reckless driving violation, a second or subsequent offense is a class 1 misdemeanor with harsher penalties, including a minimum of 20 days in jail.
Negligent driving, on the other hand, describes any act or omission behind the wheel that is careless or fails to meet the acceptable level of care. A driver can be negligent without showing a wanton disregard for the safety of others. A driver may unintentionally roll through a stop sign without meaning to, for example, while distracted. Although a negligent driver does not necessarily mean to make a mistake, he or she can still face legal repercussions for doing so, including accountability for a related car accident.
What Is the Difference Between a Negligent and a Reckless Driver?
The main difference between a negligent and a reckless driver is knowledge of the wrongful act. A reckless driver knows (or reasonably should know) that what he or she is doing is wrong, dangerous or puts others at risk of bodily injuries, yet carries out the action anyway. A negligent driver may not realize that he or she is doing something wrong; the driver does it out of carelessness. Neither negligence nor recklessness, however, requires proof of the driver’s intent to harm others.
Examples of reckless driving are:
- Excessive speeding or street racing
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Texting and driving
- Running a red light
- Road-rage or aggressive driving
- Driving without headlights
Examples of negligent driving include:
- Failing to keep a proper lookout
- Drowsy driving
- Making an unsafe lane change
- Failing to yield the right-of-way
- Failing to properly maintain a vehicle
Unlike a reckless driver, a negligent driver may not recognize the inherent risks associated with an action or behavior. Either way, the driver can be held financially responsible (liable) for a resultant car crash in Arizona.
Negligence vs. Recklessness in a Car Accident Claim
Whether a driver was negligent or reckless in failing to exercise an ordinary degree of care behind the wheel, he or she can be held liable for a car accident. Arizona is a fault-based car insurance state, meaning the driver or party at fault for the crash will be liable for medical payments and property repairs. If you are an accident injured victim, you can file a car accident claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
A driver can face criminal repercussions for reckless driving in Arizona. If a driver was reckless and received a related traffic ticket or criminal charge, this could help you prove liability during your car accident claim. Recklessness does not, however, make liability automatic. It is still up to you or your car accident attorney to prove the other driver is at fault. Reckless driving may also make you eligible for punitive damages – an additional financial award granted by a judge in cases that involve gross negligence, recklessness or intent to harm.