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Why "Reckless Disregard" Is Much Harder to Prove Than Negligence in NY

Here's the general rule, as articulated by New York's Court of Appeals, for an emergency responder's liability for an auto accident under New York law:
 
"The manner in which a police officer operates his or her vehicle in responding to an emergency radio bulletin may not form the basis of civil liability to an injured third party unless the officer acted in reckless disregard for the safety of others (see Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1104 [e]; Saarinen v Kerr, 84 NY2d 494, 501 [1994]; Molinari v City of New York, 267 AD2d 436 [1999])."
 
But what does "reckless disregard" actually mean?
 
Fortunately, New York's courts have given some guidance on the issue, and, putting it mildly, it is a far more daunting evidentiary hurdle for a plaintiff to clear than merely demonstrating that the defendants were negligent:
 
"The "reckless disregard" standard requires evidence that the actor intentionally committed an act of an unreasonable character in disregard of a known or obvious risk that was so great as to make it highly probable that harm would follow (see Szczerbiak v Pilat, 90 NY2d 553, 557 [1997]; Saarinen v Kerr, supra at 501; Campbell v City of Elmira, 84 NY2d 505, 510 [1994])."

Jonathan Cooper
Non-Compete, Trade Secret and School Negligence Lawyer