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What Is “Willful and Wanton” Conduct?

June 20, 2023
Personal Injury

Your Rights When a Defendant Exhibits a Reckless Disregard for the Safety of Others

Historically, Florida courts have struggled with how to define willful and wanton conduct. It is often described as somewhere in between ordinary negligence and a deliberate act. However, proving it can prove critical in a personal injury case as it may lead to an award of punitive damages.

According to the Florida Statutes, a court may only award punitive damages or those designed to punish the defendant for their act or omission in cases where there is gross negligence or intentional misconduct. 

What Is Gross Negligence?

Gross negligence occurs when a person’s acts or omissions are so reckless that they exhibit a conscious disregard for the safety of others. In other words, a person who is guilty of gross negligence will display a reckless indifference to the life and rights of others. 

What Is Intentional Misconduct?

Intentional misconduct occurs when a person has “actual knowledge of the wrongfulness” of the act and knows or reasonably should know that there is a high probability that injury to another could occur. Additionally, it must be shown that despite knowing this, they intentionally engaged in the misconduct. 

What Is Willful and Wanton Misconduct?

The same principle behind the theories of gross negligence and intentional misconduct is often used to describe willful and wanton conduct. Courts have defined this level of negligence as having a conscious and intentional disregard for the safety of others. They have also said that it is when a defendant acts with reckless indifference to other people’s rights. 

While it is accepted that willful and wanton conduct must be more than just mere negligence, it does not necessarily amount to a deliberate act. A person must only show that they knew of the potential for harm and engaged in the behavior anyways or that they were indifferent to the consequences of their actions. 

Should I Hire an Attorney?

If you are seriously injured in an accident, you should consult with a personal injury attorney about your right to compensation. In some cases, the defendant's behavior may arise to wilful and wanton misconduct. If it can be proven that the defendant’s conduct went beyond ordinary negligence, you might be entitled to additional damages. 

However, without the help of an attorney, it is unlikely that these damages will be awarded. Proving that the defendant acted with a reckless disregard for the safety of others can be challenging without a legal representative. A lawyer can help you determine whether you have a valid claim and how to proceed with your case.

Contact Our Office for More Information

At Mase Seitz Briggs, we are experienced trial lawyers who have handled thousands of cases on behalf of injured parties throughout South Florida. Our legal team will help ensure that you receive the largest recovery possible if you were injured in an accident. 

Contact our office today at (844) 627-3529 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. There are never any fees unless we recover money on your behalf. Get the superior representation you deserve. Call now to get started. 

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