Negligent Driving Versus Reckless Driving

Vehicle accidents happen in a variety of ways, often due to the careless, negligent, or reckless driving of others. However, it is important to understand that there is a difference between negligent driving behaviors and reckless driving. We want to define the difference between these two and discuss how they could affect a personal injury claim after an accident occurs. If you have specific questions about the detail of your accident, scheduling a consultation with a Seattle car accident lawyer can help. 

What is Negligent Driving?

The vast majority of vehicle accidents that occur in Washington are the result of negligent driving behavior. Negligent driving is not necessarily malicious driving. In most cases, drivers are not intentionally negligent.

There are variety of types of negligent driving behaviors that can cause accidents in this state. This includes accidents that occur due to:

  • Distracted driving
  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Failing to stop at a stop sign or stoplight
  • Driving too fast for conditions
  • Failing to use a turn signal
  • Vehicle equipment malfunction 

When a person seeks compensation after a negligent driver causes an accident, they have to prove various elements of negligence in order for the claim to be valid. This includes:

  1. Showing that the driver owed a duty of care to others around them. This duty of care is established by the simple fact of being licensed and operating a vehicle.
  2. Establishing that the at-fault driver somehow breached their duty of care, which can include any of the actions we mentioned above that constitute negligent driving behavior, as well as other driving behaviors.
  3. Showing that the breach of duty directly caused the accident and any injuries or property damage.
  4. Establishing that the plaintiff suffered some sort of monetary loss, which can include medical bills, property damage expenses, pain and suffering damages, etc.

What is Reckless Driving?

Reckless driving is a very specific traffic violation in Washington. When we examine RCW 46.61.500, we can see that a person can receive a citation for reckless driving if they “drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”

If a person operates a vehicle recklessly, they could be cited for a misdemeanor offense that is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of no more than $5,000. 

When differentiating between negligent driving and reckless driving, we can think of reckless driving as more intentional actions that a person knows are dangerous. For example, consuming alcohol or other controlled substances, previously racing a vehicle, intentionally ramming a car into someone else, and weaving in and out of traffic are all examples of reckless driving behavior.

Compensation for Accidents

Any person who has been injured or sustained property damage in an accident caused by negligent or reckless driving behavior should be able to recover compensation for their losses. Typically, this compensation will come through an insurance settlement, but it could also happen as a result of a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. If the accident occurred in Washington State, our Seattle personal injury attorneys can help you navigate this process.

There are some circumstances where insurance carriers will not cover the actions of the insured if the reckless driving was intentional. We encourage all crash victims to reach out to an attorney who can help them recover the compensation they are entitled to.