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The Difference Between Negligent and Reckless Driving

Car accidents are unfortunately common in Texas. These collisions can occur for a variety of reasons, from distracted driving and failure to yield the right of way to aggressive and reckless driving.

There is a significant difference between negligent and reckless driving. If you are involved in a motor vehicle collision, it is important to understand this difference so that you can appropriately hold the at-fault driver accountable for his or her actions.

Examples of Negligent Driving

Negligence refers to a person’s failure to uphold a certain duty of care. In Texas, drivers have a responsibility to follow traffic laws and operate their vehicles safely. If a motorist breaches this duty and causes an accident, he or she commits an act of negligent driving.

Below are a few examples of negligent acts that could lead to motor vehicle collisions.

  • Running a red light or stop sign
  • Driving over the speed limit
  • Making an illegal turn
  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Driving while tired or fatigued
  • Failing to obey traffic signs
  • Driving while distracted, such as texting and driving
  • Changing lanes without checking for oncoming traffic

Examples of Reckless Driving

Sometimes, the actions of a motor vehicle driver extend beyond simple negligence. A driver may act dangerously and recklessly on the road, heightening the chances of an accident.

In Texas, reckless driving refers to the operation of a motor vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. It is a misdemeanor criminal offense that can result in severe penalties, including fines and jail time.

The following are examples of conduct that may constitute reckless driving.

  • Driving extremely fast for the road conditions
  • Weaving in and out of traffic 
  • Engaging in street racing activities
  • Committing dangerous acts while trying to evade the police
  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Operating a dangerous vehicle, such as one without brake lights
  • Engaging in aggressive driving or committing acts of road rage

Can You Recover Punitive Damages in Texas?

If you are injured by a reckless driver in Texas, you may be eligible for additional compensation. Texas is a fault insurance state, meaning that negligent drivers are financially responsible for any accidents that they cause. Victims of these accidents are entitled to file insurance claims or lawsuits against the at-fault driver.

Through these claims, victims can recover compensation for the economic damages they suffered, such as medical care and property damage, as well as non-economic pain and suffering losses. In cases involving reckless driving, however, you may be eligible for a third category of damages known as punitive damages.

Texas awards punitive or exemplary damages as a way to punish an at-fault party for dangerous or egregious actions. You can recover this compensation if you can prove that your accident involved fraud, malice, or gross negligence. Cases involving reckless driving often qualify for punitive damages. 

Speak to a Texas Car Accident Lawyer

If you are seeking compensation following a car accident, you need an attorney on your side. A McAllen, Texas car accident lawyer can calculate all of the damages that you are entitled to receive and craft a compelling case to fight for your right to compensation. As soon as possible following your accident, speak to an attorney to discuss your next steps.