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Recklessness in California

Nov 15, 2019 | California

According to CACI 3113 recklessness is something more than just the failure to use reasonable care. Recklessness is more than simple negligence, as it involves more than inadvertence, unskillfulness, incompetence, or a failure to take precautions. Recklessness is defined as a conscious choice of a course of action with knowledge of the high danger to other people involved in it. (Delaney v. Baker 1999)

Elements of Reckless Conduct

To establish the claim the plaintiff must be able to prove the following elements:

  • Defendant had intention to commit to a conduct knowing that it can create a potentially high risk of injury or harm
  • Defendant’s conduct created an unreasonable risk
  • The risk, created by the defendant’s conduct was significantly greater than ordinary negligence
  • Defendant knew or reasonably should have known that another person was present and expose to a high risk of injury or harm

Thus, to be found liable for reckless conduct the defendant must have knowledge of a high degree of probability that dangerous consequences will result from his actions. Moreover, the defendant should act with deliberate or conscious disregard of those probable consequences.

Difference Between Acting Recklessly and Acting Negligently

Acting Recklessly

A person who is acting recklessly does so with the knowledge that his actions involve a risk of causing harm to another people. Thus, a person is conscious of what his conduct, knows that his conduct can cause a harm or injury, but he still engages in the act.

Acting Negligently

A person who is acting negligently can be unaware that his conduct involves a risk of causing harm, even if he should have known about that. In California law, a person is acting negligently in case he is acting in a way that a reasonably careful person would not act in the same situation, or fails to act in a way that a reasonably careful person would act in the similar situation.

Examples of Reckless Conduct

Here are some examples of recklessness:

  • Evading a police car
  • Allowing a minor to handle a gun
  • Driving a vehicle at a high rate of speed
  • Purposely failing to yield to other vehicles
  • Intentionally running red traffic signal or a stop sign
  • Driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of at least 0.08%
  • Driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Texting while driving a car

Damages That the Plaintiff Can Recover

In case the defendant is found guilty in performing reckless conduct and causing harm or injuries to the plaintiff, then the trier-of-fact may award damages to the plaintiff. Damages must be rationale and be causally related to the accident.

 Damages Can Include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma
  • Past and future income loss
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Permanent disability or permanent disfigurement
  • Diminished quality of life

The plaintiff may also be entitled to punitive or exemplary damages, in case he proves by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant was acting with malice.