Negligence and recklessness sound like synonyms and are often used to describe a wrongdoer’s actions that result in injury or damage. However, under Pennsylvania law, Title 18, Section 302(b)(3) and (4), these are two very different levels of fault that result in different consequences and punishments under the law. While both may be charged both civilly and criminally, it is important to visit with an experienced personal injury attorney to help you determine how your specific case should be filed to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.


If one person or company has a duty to another and breaches that duty, which directly results in physical, emotional, or financial harm to a victim, the person acted negligently. Ultimately, negligence is the failure to act or behave in a way that a reasonable person acting with prudence would have behaved in the same or similar circumstances.

In cases of negligence, the following four criteria are required to be proven in a court of law:

  • We all owe a duty to someone at some point in our lives. Drivers owe a duty of care to other motorists not to drive distracted and obey the traffic laws. Property owners have a duty to ensure that their property is safe for guests or customers, or warn them of the hazardous conditions. Doctors have a special duty under the doctor-patient relationship to ensure that their patients receive a level of care established by the medical community.
  • Breach of Duty. Personal injury cases require proof that the person or company that owed a duty to a person breached that duty in some way. For example, a driver was speeding, or a doctor left a sponge in a patient during surgery, or a dog owner allowed their vicious dog to be off a leash resulting in a serious dog bite to a victim.
  • A victim must be able to prove that their injuries or damage were a direct result of the breach of duty from the person or company.
  • Personal injury cases require that a victim must have suffered actual physical, mental, or emotional damages.


Recklessness is a much more serious offense. Negligence simply means that someone should have done something and failed to do so. Recklessness is when someone deliberately engages in dangerous behavior fully knowing that it is dangerous and may injury someone or damage property. There is a willful disregard of people and property and a willingness to take on that risky behavior. In some cases, recklessness is called “gross negligence.” In all cases, the criteria for negligence must be met, however, there is an extra level of dangerous or egregious behavior by the defendant that accompanies that breach of duty. Some examples could be driving while intoxicated, speeding excessively, medical professionals performing surgical procedures without the qualifications to do so, or a complete lack of safety in a store or building without warning signs posted.

Contact an Experienced Personal injury Attorney

Contact the personal injury attorneys at O’Donnell Law Offices. We can help you determine if your personal injury case falls under negligence or recklessness, and help you receive the compensation you deserve. We proudly serve clients in Kingston, Wilkes Barre, Hazleton, and Pittston. Call us at 570-821-5717 or online today.


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