​What Is Considered Reckless Driving?

Most motorists nationwide adhere to traffic rules, drive safely, and get to their destinations without incident. However, reckless drivers do not observe safety laws and cause serious harm to innocent people. What is considered reckless driving? Reckless driving typically involves operating a vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others. Common examples include excessive speeding, aggressive maneuvers, running red lights/stop signs, driving under the influence, street racing, and texting while driving. However, exact definitions vary by jurisdiction.

As an injured accident victim, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries and must speak with a reckless driving injury lawyer near you immediately.

Reckless driving is a conscious act, and drivers cannot blame anyone but themselves. However, the laws surrounding these actions are complex. In the event of a car accident caused by reckless driving, it’s important to seek the help of a car accident lawyer who can assist you in seeking compensation for damages and injuries sustained. Your attorney can help you navigate the legal system and protect your rights.

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Willful and Wanton Conduct

The terms willful and wanton describe reckless driving collisions. Willful means the person intentionally and knowingly participated in the action. Wanton means the driver had a conscious and intentional indifference to the consequences of their reckless actions. Reckless driving also involves purposely participating in negligent acts knowing they will likely result in injuries and damages.

Speed Is a Factor, but Only One

Reckless driving by speeding is widespread but also very complicated. While speed alone does not constitute reckless driving, it contributes. In some states, excessive speeding is sufficient for a reckless driving allegation. Some places will evaluate how much a driver exceeded the posted speed limit. For example, going 20 miles over the speed limit can constitute reckless driving but going five miles over is a regular speeding ticket. When speeding is excessive, motorists can easily cause devastating injuries.

Driving recklessly often combines speeding and other dangerous actions like weaving in and out of traffic.

Speeding is one factor, but for a reckless driving charge, a law enforcement officer will often consider speed plus:

  • Unsafe lane changes
  • Tailgating
  • Failure to signal
  • Failure to yield or stop
  • Passing outside of regular traffic lanes
  • Street racing
  • Passing on blind curves
  • Going through railroad barriers

The faster a motor vehicle travels, the worse the injuries might be. Drivers cannot react in time, and if they commit another violation in combination with speeding, the results can kill someone.

Careless Driving Versus Reckless Driving

There are stark differences between careless and reckless driving, even though people often use the terms interchangeably. The critical difference is that careless driving is unintentional, like falling asleep at the wheel, while reckless driving is intentional. The penalties for each are different, and so are the outcomes. You can be struck by a driver participating in either action and suffer injuries and losses. The only difference is how their driving led to the crash and how liability takes shape.

As an accident victim, your concern is what happens to you and how you get compensation. When an injury occurs, the state will increase its criminal penalties for reckless driving charges, often requiring steep fines and jail time. When a death occurs, jail time is mandatory. However, the criminal system does little to help you as a victim.

You must take legal action to seek compensation. The reckless or careless driver should have insurance, and their insurer should pay for their losses. However, since these issues are contentious, you must have a car accident lawyer who can fight for your money.

Reckless Drivers Should Face Serious Consequences

After a crash, the reckless driver will face many penalties for their actions. As an injury victim, you can file a civil lawsuit to recover compensation, which is one penalty they will face. However, someone convicted of reckless driving will face many other penalties, from a criminal and personal standpoint.

Consequences for reckless driving include:

  • Fines: Reckless drivers must pay fines for their infractions
  • Criminal records: Reckless driving is a misdemeanor but can also be a felony, depending on individual factors.
  • Jail time: In some circumstances, reckless drivers will face jail from 30 days to six months.
  • Surcharges: Some states add surcharges for the ticket
  • License points: The DMV will add points to their driver’s license that impact their driving record for years.
  • License suspension: If the driver has too many points on their license, they will suffer a suspension.
  • Increased insurance premiums: Insurance companies will raise rates when a driver has a reckless driving conviction.

Additional penalties can result depending on the driver’s residence and if there was an injury or death.

CDLs and Reckless Driving

When someone with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) engages in reckless driving, they can lose their CDL, which is necessary for their employment. Drivers with this license have a higher responsibility than others on the road because they operate large trucks. When they drive recklessly, they endanger hundreds of lives, which is unacceptable. As a result, they often lose their driving privileges. Commercial truck drivers should never participate in reckless actions. If they cause injuries in a truck accident, victims should receive full compensation under the law.

Underage Reckless Driving

Underage drivers with or without a license are not exempt from penalties and liability for reckless driving. The underage person can get citations for reckless driving and be criminally liable for their actions. They can also receive points on their license.

Reckless driving is rampant among younger drivers because they believe they are invincible and beyond reproach. New drivers have a lot to learn, and their lack of knowledge can lead them to drive recklessly. If an underage driver causes serious injuries, their parents can be liable for compensating the accident victims.

Causes of Reckless Driving Accidents

Reckless driving involves many negligent actions, but some cause more accidents than others:

  • Sudden braking
  • Ignoring stop signs and red lights
  • Tailgating
  • Illegal turns
  • Illegal lane changes
  • Not signaling when changing lanes
  • Using your phone in any capacity while driving
  • Driving under the influence
  • Failure to yield to pedestrians

When a driver engages in any of these behaviors, they must take responsibility for their actions. Reckless driving accidents are preventable. Someone charged with operating a motor vehicle recklessly may face criminal charges, hefty fines, civil claims, and possible jail time.

Injuries Due to Reckless Driving

Always hire a car accident lawyer to recover compensation for medical treatment and more when you suffer a preventable injury. Many reckless driving accidents result in severe injuries that lead to expenses and pain for months or years.

Reckless drivers cause injuries like:

These accidents can result in permanent injuries. Discuss your injury severity with your medical team and car accident lawyer. You need legal and medical opinions to determine how your injury will impact your life and how much your injury is worth.

Chronic Issues from Car Accidents

Reckless driving accidents have lifelong effects on victims that many people overlook. The initial injury is only one element of your suffering.

Some chronic issues from reckless driving accidents include:

  • Distress: The mental anguish you will suffer from a car accident can be immeasurable. You can suffer fear, anxiety, and more, which can impact your psychological and physical health.
  • Fear of driving: You may not want to get into a vehicle for some time after a severe car accident. This can have debilitating effects on your personal and professional life.
  • Lack of employment: You might need to take time off for medical treatment, and if you require surgery, that can mean weeks or months off. You might lose your job, and suffering from a disability or impairment can lead to fewer employment options.
  • Insufficient funds to replace property: You can get compensation for your property damage, but in some cases, not enough. Getting to work and other places will be challenging without enough money to replace your vehicle.

Chronic pain and suffering also make your future challenging. You can feel fine one day and cannot get out of bed the next. Reckless driving accidents have a slew of lifelong impacts on victims, and they have important rights to compensation for these challenges. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you file a civil claim to recover for your losses.

Criminal and Civil Liability

Depending on your state, reckless driving can be a traffic infraction or a criminal offense. When you file a compensation claim, you are taking civil action. The criminal case outcome does not have a direct bearing on your civil lawsuit, but a conviction can help you prove liability.

Car accident attorneys can use a criminal infraction for reckless driving as evidence in your civil case. Lack of a criminal conviction will not necessarily hinder your recovery efforts. Your lawyer can still pursue a civil case even without a criminal case against the driver.

Proving a Reckless Driver’s Negligence

Many accident victims assume that if the driver receives a ticket proving negligence is straightforward, but that is not always correct. A conviction can help your case, but your car accident lawyer must work diligently to get enough evidence to support your claim.

The four elements of negligence are:

  • Duty of care: the driver owed you a duty to drive carefully and avoid injuries.
  • Breach: the driver did not follow the duty they owe you.
  • Causation: their behaviors led to the accident.
  • Damages: you suffered injuries and losses from the driver’s negligent actions.

Your attorney must prove each element, which can involve hiring expert witnesses, finding videos and pictures of the scene, gathering police and medical reports, and more.

Damage Awards for Reckless Driving Injuries

Injury victims of reckless driving accidents deserve justice for their losses. They must garner compensation from the negligent driver’s insurance company to cover current and future losses.

Damages you can recover depend on individual factors and the facts of your case.

When you suffer significant injuries, the driver’s insurance company should provide payment for losses you incur, like:

  • Disfigurement
  • Bodily injury
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability
  • Mental anguish associated with a physical injury
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Past and future lost income
  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Replacement value of personal property
  • Transportation costs for medical appointments

The settlements and awards for reckless driving are often enhanced value cases resulting in substantial compensation. All car accident claims involve negligence or blame, but reckless driving is aggravated conduct and is, therefore, more complex and serious. This can result in higher compensation for some victims.

Punitive Damages for Reckless Driving Accidents

Rare cases can result in punitive damage awards, which are only available when the driver was reckless, egregious, and reprehensible. Your car accident lawyer must prove the offender acted with moral turpitude, malice, or reckless indifference for the safety and well-being of others to seek punitive damages.

Simple negligence does not qualify for punitive damages.

Examples of malicious behavior that can result in punitive damages are:

  • Extremely reckless speeds
  • Criminal charges from the accident, like manslaughter
  • Voluntary intoxication
  • Failure to stop at the accident scene

Other factors can result in punitive damages, but these awards aim to punish the offender and not compensate the victim for losses. Since it is a punishment, the court can consider their financial situation before determining the amount to award.

Many states have caps on punitive damages around three times compensatory damages. Your lawyer must request and prove your entitlement to punitive damages to access these funds.

Insurance Companies Avoid Payment

While the fair and just thing to do is for the insurance company to pay for the losses stemming from your reckless driving accident, that is rarely how things work out. You require fair and reasonable compensation to become whole again, but the insurance company wants to save money.

Accident victims must refrain from independently dealing with insurance companies, defense lawyers, and other interested parties. Your injuries do not matter to them, but they matter to your car accident attorney.

The insurance companies intentionally make the claim process challenging, so victims become overwhelmed, lose track of deadlines, give up, and settle for less. However, insurance companies change their tone when they realize the victim has a lawyer representing their best interests. Avoid letting the insurance company decide your case’s worth and bully you into a low settlement. Instead, speak to local car accident lawyers.

How Reckless Driving Injury Lawyers Can Help

Tatiana Boohoff,Lawyer for Driving Injury Cases near Seattle area.
Tatiana Boohoff, Driving Injury Attorney in Seattle.

Human error accounts for most car accidents, but there is a difference between miscalculating a maneuver and intentional reckless driving. Liability can be contentious in reckless driving accident claims, and you must have a car accident lawyer who can sift through all the red tape and get you the compensation you require for your losses. The experienced personal injury lawyers at Boohof Law understand traffic laws and what constitutes reckless driving. We are ready to be your advocate.

Request A Free Consultation Today!

Boohoff Law, P.A. — Auto Accident Lawyers – Tampa Office

829 W Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd,
Tampa, FL 33603
Phone: (813) 725-5606

March 21, 2024
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