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What is recklessness and how does it affect car accidents?

There are times when a motor vehicle accident is exactly that – an accident. However, there are other times when a person holds fault for the collision through his or her intentional actions, which the law considers reckless behavior.

If you've ever been in an accident with a reckless driver, you know how important it is for motorists to follow the rules of the road and you know exactly what can happen if someone ignores the law. However, you may not know exactly what the legal standards for recklessness may be and how it pertains to car accidents. Though laws vary state to state, there are some ideas that apply to most situations here in Texas and elsewhere.

What does recklessness mean?

First, it may help to define recklessness as it applies to liability for an incident. When people behave recklessly, it means that there is a reasonable expectation that they would know that what they are doing is wrong and could result in hurting someone else. Even if they say they were unaware that their actions were potentially dangerous, if the law determines that they should have known, authorities can hold them liable.

There are three other theories of liability that can further define recklessness. Intent means the person purposefully meant to hurt someone else with his or her actions, whereas that is not so with recklessness. Negligence happens when people engage in a dangerous behavior without knowing they have done so, while recklessness requires the knowledge that their actions pose a threat to others. Strict liability means that there are certain parameters that make people responsible regardless of their thought process.

Breaking down recklessness

Beyond the basic definition, there are two other ways to categorize recklessness - the subjective test and the objective test. The subjective test considers what the person charged with recklessness was thinking or may have been thinking during the incident. The objective test looks at what the behavior of a reasonable person should have been in the same situation.

For example, if a person is excessively speeding through a residential neighborhood, that action could constitute reckless driving. Most people would know that this behavior is very dangerous, even if they didn't see a speed limit sign. Objectively, the choice to speed is reckless. Subjectively, perhaps the person was thinking that he or she found it thrilling to speed through a neighborhood where people may be close to the roadway, which could also be considered reckless.

How recklessness factors into car accidents

Reckless drivers may make the choice to drive erratically despite knowing the risk. However, they don't want to actively harm anyone else. If they did, that would show intent rather than recklessness. This standard shows how often recklessness plays a role in car crashes. Most people don't want to have a car accident, nor do they want to hurt anyone by causing one. However, that doesn't stop some people from texting and driving, driving while intoxicated, speeding or engaging in other risky driving behavior.

Though recklessness doesn't factor into every kind of car crash, it plays a large role in many of them. If you have lost a loved one due to a car accident with a reckless driver, you may not know your available legal options. There are ways to hold that person accountable.

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