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A Summary of the Law of Torts (Personal Injury Law) Part II – Reckless and Negligent conduct

Part I of this series of articles included a discussion of intentional torts which result in criminal and civil liability for injuries caused by that conduct. Reckless conduct is also a tort, because it too is a breach of the duty of care all individuals and businesses owe to each other. There is some overlap here as some reckless conduct is also criminal, but usually to a lesser degree than intentional conduct. In the civil context reckless conduct is generally conduct that you knew was unreasonable conduct that would likely injure someone, but selfishly proceeded anyway, disregarding the serious risks of injury you posed to others. The best examples of reckless conduct include using guns for sport in a populated or crowded area where the risk of serious harm to others was known and ignored; or drinking, driving and getting into an accident which injures others. Famous civil cases of reckless conduct include the Ford Pinto exploding gas tank cases, the Exxon Valdez case, and believe it or not, the McDonald's hot coffee case. Reckless conduct results in civil liability for all actual damages and punitive damages in some instances. All defense costs and damage awards in these cases except for punitive damages are usually covered by a liability insurance policy insuring the responsible party. Policies providing such coverage include home owner's insurance, renter's insurance and commercial liability policies to name the most common ones. Negligent conduct is the lowest level of conduct or degree of breach of the duty of care that will result in civil liability for resulting injuries. It includes acts of carelessness, unreasonable conduct under the circumstances or violations of statutory standards of care that the legislature has deemed to be appropriate in different circumstances. A nice lady was negligent towards my wife when we traveled to Buffalo, NY for the recent holidays. My wife was sitting in her seat on the plane just beginning to read her book while others were still boarding. The lady attempted to put a heavy bag in the overheard bin above my wife's seat. Unbenounced to us, the lady had an injured shoulder which caused the bag to slip out of her grasp and drop on my wife's head. The lady breached her duty of care to my wife as she failed in her attempt to put the bag in the bin without asking for assistance. It was unreasonable for her to try to do so knowing that the bag was heavy and knowing that she was limited by a bad shoulder. She knew it, sincerely apologized to my wife, offered to provide us with her contact information and could not have been nicer. Thankfully, my wife was fine and there was no need to do anything further. Negligence does not necessarily equate with being a bad person. We have all failed at some point to yield the right of way when we should have; we have all had a lapse in judgment that caused us to act unreasonably under a given set of circumstances. Negligent conduct will result in liability for actual damages caused by the conduct, (but will not result in punitive damages). Defense costs and damage awards based in negligence are also generally covered by liability insurance. (I became a lawyer, because I wanted to serve justice, and I hope that someday I may have the opportunity to serve your legal needs.)

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