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What Does it Mean to Act Recklessly?

By Randall & Stump excels in criminal defense, serving clients in Charlotte, NC & other surrounding cities.
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Category Car Accidents, Personal Injury
Thursday, April 25, 2019


Reckless behavior can both lead to civil liability and criminal charges. However, it’s not always easy to identify what constitutes recklessness. If you’re facing criminal charges or a civil lawsuit, or have been injured as a result of someone else’s reckless behavior, proving recklessness will be vital to your case.

At Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys, our Charlotte personal injury attorneys and criminal defense lawyers have experience with proving recklessness in a variety of cases. Whether you’re being accused of acting recklessly or the victim of someone else’s reckless behavior, we can help you build a strong case. Call us at (980) 237-4579 or reach out online to schedule a free consultation to discuss how we can help you.

Recklessness Defined

The definition of recklessness is nuanced when it comes to the law. There is no single, agreed-upon definition, but when it comes to the law, recklessness occurs when someone deliberately undertakes a course of action with conscious disregard for the risk those actions pose to others.

What About Intentional Harm and Negligence?

It may be easier to understand recklessness in the legal context by comparing it to other standards of liability. An intentional tort is when someone intends to cause harm to another person. In addition to being a crime, assault is an intentional tort – the attacker intended to harm their victim.

Negligence, on the other hand, is when someone unintentionally causes harm to another person. For example, someone may cause a car accident by accidentally running a red light because they didn’t see the light change. They didn’t intend to harm anyone, but their failure to pay attention to the traffic light makes them responsible for the injuries they caused.

Elements of Recklessness

It may also be helpful to break recklessness down into its elements:

  • You intended to perform the act that led to the injury
  • You knew that your actions created an unreasonable risk of harm to others
  • The risk is substantially greater than created by negligence behavior
  • You knew or should have known that others were present and in danger of harm

If your actions meet all four elements, it’s likely that a judge or a jury will decide that you were acting recklessly.

How Do You Determine Recklessness?

Determining reckless actions might seem straightforward, but it is actually more complicated than it appears. Some reckless behaviors are defined by law and considered to be criminal. For example, reckless driving is a common traffic violation, and the law defines what is considered reckless in many instances. In other situations, including civil tort claims, it may not be as simple to determine whether you acted recklessly. Generally speaking, there are two tests that determine whether you acted recklessly:

  • A subjective test – What did you know, or what were you thinking when you undertook the actions that led to the accident?
  • An objective test – Would a reasonable person with the same knowledge and abilities have undertaken the same actions?

Whichever test is employed, and whether you’re wondering about civil tort liability or a criminal charge, the facts of your case will be critical in determining whether you acted recklessly.

Contact Our Charlotte Attorneys for Help Today

The attorneys at Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys represent people who are facing criminally reckless charges as well as the victims of reckless behaviors. We will use our knowledge and experience to fight for you to get a fair outcome, whether you are seeking compensation or trying to avoid conviction. Whatever your case, you should contact an experienced attorney right away – delays could do irreparable damage to your case. To schedule a free consultation of your case, contact us today at (980) 237-4579.