Reckless Driving

Published On: February 15, 2022
Categories: Car Accidents

The vast majority of motor vehicle accidents are the result of human error. The types of human errors that commonly cause accidents often involve an instant of distraction while responding to a text, failing to yield the right-of-way, or following too closely. Unfortunately, other types of accidents result in someone exhibiting intentionally reckless behavior while operating a vehicle.

What Is Reckless Driving?

Every state has a slightly different definition of reckless driving. Florida’s statutes define reckless driving as operating a motor vehicle “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”

What sets reckless driving apart from careless driving-which is failing to take reasonable care to protect the safety and property of others-is the willful or wanton part of the definition. Willful and wanton actions refer to deliberate actions done with intent. While a reckless driver isn’t necessarily seeking an accident, they are deliberately engaging in the type of behavior that can cause one.

Examples of Reckless Driving

Many types of actions can be considered reckless. Here is a look at some of the most common reckless driving behaviors that result in accidents.

#1. Drag Racing on a Public Street

Drag racing is a dangerous practice on public roads. Florida ranks in the top 10 for states with the highest number of drivers with previous drag racing convictions, with about eight drivers in every 100,000 busted for street racing. Interestingly, despite having one of the highest numbers of drag racers-a practice that statistics indicate is most popular in the south-Florida has one of the lowest numbers of drivers with previous speeding convictions as slightly over 7 percent.

#2. Threading Traffic

Threading traffic, or weaving in and out of travel lanes to get through traffic congestion, is an aggressive and reckless driving practice.

Some especially reckless circumstances include:

  • Improper passing at a railroad crossing, a crosswalk, or an intersection.
  • Switching lanes while entering a sharp curve in the road.
  • Changing lanes to pass a school bus with its stop arm deployed.
  • Failing to ensure a travel lane is clear before entering it.

#3. Speed Coupled With Other Factors

Speeding is a major cause of accidents, factoring in about one-third of all motor vehicle accidents and a quarter of all fatal accidents.

There are several hazards associated with speeding, including:

  • Less time to perceive a hazard on the roadway and respond to it by depressing the brakes
  • More distance required to stop the vehicle.
  • Increased severity when a collision occurs.

Despite these dangers, speeding alone is not necessarily considered reckless driving unless the speed the individual is traveling at is considerably over the posted limit. However, speed combined with other behaviors such as tailgating, improper lane changes, or in places such as school zones or construction zones can meet the criteria for reckless driving.

#4. Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol

Driving while impaired is also a form of willful or wanton disregard for the safety and property of others. Impaired driving is another one of the most common causes of motor vehicle accidents in the U.S., accounting for at least one death every hour of every day, along with even more non-fatal injuries.

DUI in Florida generally carries stiffer penalties for drivers than reckless driving does. As a result, many individuals charged with DUI will attempt to reduce the charge to reckless driving.

#5. Fleeing Law Enforcement

According to Florida’s laws, using a motor vehicle to flee law enforcement either during a traffic stop or when the police lights or siren are engaged is considered reckless driving per se, adding the potential of additional criminal penalties for the offense.

Seeking Compensation After Being Injured by a Reckless Driver

In Florida, drivers injured by someone else’s careless or reckless actions must seek compensation for their medical expenses and injury-related wage loss through the personal injury protection (PIP) insurance policy they needed to purchase before registering their car.

However, if the expenses of the injury exceed the limits of your PIP policy or your injury satisfies the state’s serious injury threshold-which includes permanent injuries, permanent loss of a bodily function, significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, or death-you may seek compensation from the at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy.

The personal injury claims process generally begins when your attorney determines all sources of liability and associated insurance resources, establishes a value to your claim, and submits a demand for payment of the value of your claim to the at-fault party’s insurance provider. The insurance provider assigns an adjuster to the claim, who analyzes the claim and determines an appropriate payout.

Unfortunately, because the insurance adjuster works for the insurance company, their idea of an appropriate payout is often no payout at all or one that is far less than the value of your claim.

Upon receiving your claim and evaluating the details of your accident and injuries, the insurance adjuster can either:

  • Accept the claim and pay the full value of the demand.
  • Deny the claim and provide you with a reason for the denial.
  • Offer to settle the claim for less than its value.

If the insurance adjuster offers a settlement, your attorney can negotiate with them to convince them to increase their offer. If the insurance company fails to accept the claim or offer fair compensation through settlement, you and your attorney can determine when to file your claim in court.

All states have a statute of limitations for personal injury claims, which is a deadline by which you must file your claim in court for you to seek compensation for your injury. Filing a lawsuit does not prevent the insurance adjuster from offering a settlement. In fact, settlement agreements can occur at any time before the court has rendered a decision on the matter, even after the trial has begun.

Does It Matter if Carelessness or Recklessness Caused the Accident?

Whether your accident resulted from someone’s carelessness or recklessness, you are entitled to seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury. However, if recklessness caused the accident and the insurer will not offer a fair settlement, you can ask the court to consider punitive damages.

Punitive damages involve compensation that is not awarded as payment for your expenses but rather as a way to punish someone for extremely egregious behavior.

Proving Liability for a Reckless Driving Accident

To prove that a reckless driver was responsible for causing the accident that resulted in your injury, you must show:

  • The at-fault party had a duty of care to take reasonable actions while operating a motor vehicle to protect the safety and property of others.
  • There was a breach in the duty of care when the at-fault party willfully and wantonly took actions that posed a high risk of causing injury or damage to property.
  • This breach resulted in the accident, which injured you and resulted in expenses and impacts.

The Type of Compensation You Can Receive for Your Claim

Individuals who were injured by reckless drivers can seek compensation for both the expenses (known as economic damages) and quality-of-life impacts (referred to as non-economic damages) of their injury.

Commonly claimed expenses after a reckless driving accident include:

  • All injury-related medical expenses, including emergency treatment at the scene, transport to the hospital, emergency room treatment, diagnostic testing, hospitalization, medication, therapy and rehabilitation, and more.
  • Wages that you lost while you were recovering from your injury.
  • The loss of future earning capacity resulting from permanent disabilities you acquired from your injury that affect your ability to earn an income.
  • Property damage resulting from the accident, such as the cost of repairing or replacing your car.
  • Physical pain and suffering and emotional distress.

How an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Can Help You With Your Claim

An experienced car accident attorney can offer a wide range of services to help victims of reckless driving.

These skills include:

  • Guidance about the legal process, the value of your claim, and what constitutes a fair settlement. All of the decisions to be made about your claim are yours alone to make. Your attorney plays an important role in ensuring that you understand these decisions and have the information necessary to act in your best interest.
  • Determining all sources of liability and all associated insurance resources. Insurance pays most car accident claims. However, insurance policies have limits. The more insurance resources available, the more likely you can obtain the maximum amount of compensation available for your claim.
  • Establishing a value to your claim. This often requires waiting until you have reached maximum medical improvement, which is the point in your recovery when your doctor determines continued treatment will likely no longer produce meaningful progress. The reason for waiting until this point is that your attorney will have a clearer picture of the type of compensation you will need to address not only the expenses and impacts you already incurred, but also those you will likely experience.
  • Managing communication with the at-fault party’s insurance provider to negotiate on your behalf and protect your claim from known insurance company tactics.
  • Filing your claim in court within your state’s statute of limitations.
  • Gathering and organizing the evidence and witness testimony needed to prove your claim in court.
  • Litigation services.
  • Assisting you in collecting your negotiated settlement or court award. Personal injury lawyers generally work on a contingent fee basis which means you don’t pay until the resolution of the claim.

The vast majority of reckless driving claims are settled outside of court because litigation is time-consuming and expensive and places all the decisions about the claim in the hands of the court. That said, some cases do make it to trial, so you need an experience car accident attorney as comfortable advocating for you in the courtroom as in settlement negotiations. Contact us for a free consultation.