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Recklessness vs. Negligence: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 30, 2023
Recklessness is Knowingly taking unjustifiable risks. Negligence is Failure to exercise reasonable care or duty.

Key Differences

Recklessness signifies a conscious decision to take an unjustifiable risk, being aware of potential consequences. Negligence, on the other hand, refers to the failure to exercise the reasonable care that a prudent person would in a similar situation.
In the realm of law, recklessness implies that a person knew, or should have known, that their actions were risky but proceeded anyway. Negligence does not necessarily involve conscious risk-taking but results from a lack of attention or carelessness.
For example, if someone drives at high speeds in a busy area, their actions might be deemed reckless. If they inadvertently forget to signal before turning, it could be seen as negligence.
Recklessness often carries an element of willful disregard for the safety or rights of others. Negligence, conversely, might arise from simple forgetfulness, lack of knowledge, or oversight.
In essence, recklessness entails a higher degree of blameworthiness because of its conscious nature. Negligence might be seen as less blameworthy but can still lead to harm due to inattention or a failure to act responsibly.

Comparison Chart


Conscious decision to take risks
May not be aware of the risk


Knows the risks but disregards them
Failure to exercise due care without intent to cause harm

In Law

More blameworthy due to conscious risk-taking
Less blameworthy but due to lack of care


Arises from deliberate actions
Arises from oversight, forgetfulness, or inattention

Degree of Fault

High due to willful disregard
Varies but generally lower than recklessness

Recklessness and Negligence Definitions


Knowingly taking unjustifiable risks.
Her recklessness in investing lost her a fortune.


Lack of consideration or duty leading to unintended consequences.
Due to her negligence, she left the stove on and caused a fire.


Conscious disregard for potential harm or consequences.
His recklessness behind the wheel led to multiple accidents.


Failure to exercise the care expected of a reasonably prudent person.
His negligence in maintenance caused the machinery to fail.


Willful indifference to the safety or rights of others.
The player's recklessness on the field resulted in injuries.


Omission of care or attention leading to harm or damage.
The doctor's negligence resulted in the patient's condition worsening.


Intentional risk-taking despite known dangers.
Climbing without proper gear showcased his recklessness.


Carelessness or failure to act responsibly.
Negligence in following procedures led to data breaches.


Deliberate behavior without concern for consequences.
Recklessness during the experiment compromised the results.


The state or quality of being negligent.


Acting or done with a lack of care or caution; careless or irresponsible.


A negligent act or a failure to act.


The state or quality of being reckless or heedless, of taking unnecessary risks.
His recklessness repeatedly put him in danger.


Failure to use the degree of care appropriate to the circumstances, resulting in an unintended injury to another.


The trait of giving little thought to danger


An act or omission showing such lack of care.


The state of being negligent.
Negligence while driving


The tort whereby a duty of reasonable care was breached, causing damage: any conduct short of intentional or reckless action that falls below the legal standard for preventing unreasonable injury.


The breach of a duty of care: the failure to exercise a standard of care that a reasonable person would have in a similar situation.


The quality or state of being negligent; lack of due diligence or care; omission of duty; habitual neglect; heedlessness.


An act or instance of negligence or carelessness.
Remarking his beauties, . . . I must also point out his negligences and defects.


The omission of the care usual under the circumstances, being convertible with the Roman culpa. A specialist is bound to higher skill and diligence in his specialty than one who is not a specialist, and liability for negligence varies acordingly.


Failure to act with the prudence that a reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances


The trait of neglecting responsibilities and lacking concern


A legal concept denoting the failure to act with reasonable care.
The company was sued for negligence after the product malfunctioned.


Which is more severe: recklessness or negligence?

Generally, recklessness is seen as more severe due to its conscious nature.

What does recklessness mean in simple terms?

Recklessness means knowingly taking risks without regard for potential harm.

Is all risk-taking considered recklessness?

No, recklessness involves taking unjustifiable risks with conscious disregard for consequences.

Can recklessness be accidental?

No, recklessness involves a conscious decision to take risks.

In what scenarios is negligence commonly found?

Negligence can be found in professional malpractice, car accidents, or failing to maintain safe premises.

Can a company be sued for recklessness?

Yes, if their conscious actions or disregard lead to harm.

Can one be insured against negligence?

Yes, many professionals have malpractice or liability insurance covering acts of negligence.

Is negligence always harmful?

Not always, but negligence can lead to harm or damage if conditions allow.

How is negligence different from mere forgetfulness?

While both can involve oversight, negligence is a failure to exercise due care, which can lead to harm or damage.

How do courts determine negligence?

They often assess whether a defendant failed to exercise reasonable care in similar circumstances.

Are children capable of negligence?

Yes, but standards may vary based on what's expected of children their age.

Can negligence be intentional?

No, negligence involves a lack of intent. It's about failing to act with due care.

Is recklessness subjective?

While it involves a conscious act, perceptions of what is reckless can vary.

Can someone be charged legally for recklessness?

Yes, depending on the circumstances and jurisdiction, recklessness can lead to legal charges.

How can one avoid recklessness?

By being aware of potential consequences and acting prudently.

What is "gross" recklessness?

It's an extreme form of recklessness, showing a very high degree of risk-taking or disregard for safety.

How does the law generally view negligence?

As a failure to act with the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise.

Are there degrees of recklessness?

While recklessness is a conscious act, its severity can vary based on the risks taken and potential harm.

How does society view recklessness and negligence?

Generally, both are viewed negatively, but recklessness often carries a stronger negative connotation due to its deliberate nature.

Can recklessness be seen in positive scenarios?

Rarely. While taking risks can sometimes have positive outcomes, recklessness implies undue and unjustified risk.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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