What Is Considered Reckless Driving?

Published On: May 18, 2023
Categories: Personal Injury Law

An Accident Caused by a Reckless Driver can be Especially Painful

When someone is in an accident, they must determine the cause and who was to blame. Sometimes, officers cite another driver in the crash for reckless driving. 

Many accident victims are unsure what this means and how it will affect their car accident claim. Those charged with reckless driving can face criminal penalties, especially if they caused a crash and injuries.

Injury victims can also hold reckless drivers liable for their losses, and they must review their legal options with a local New Port Richey personal injury lawyer.

What is the Definition of Reckless Driving?

Reckless driving has various definitions, but the most common is a defendant driving a vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others. Essentially, a driver must intentionally, purposefully, or knowingly participate in actions that can or does harm others. An example is when a driver is fleeing from law enforcement.

Carelessness does not equal reckless driving. The critical component is knowingly and purposely participating in the action despite extreme risks to others. Determining recklessness depends on the circumstances and how foreseeable it is that the actions might cause death, property damage, or bodily injury.

Willful and Wanton Conduct

Willful and wanton are basic requirements for reckless driving. Willful is any action done with knowledge, purpose, or intention. Wanton means the defendant drove consciously or intentionally indifferent to consequence. Basically, the driver participated in risky actions and did not care what might happen to anyone else. They knew that their actions might hurt someone or destroy property and continued regardless.

What’s the Difference Between Reckless and Careless Driving?

Careless and reckless driving sound similar, and many people use them interchangeably. However, they differ in several ways, and careless driving is less severe than reckless driving. As an accident victim, you can suffer damages regardless of what citation the other driver receives. The important thing is that their citation can help prove your claim.

The key differential is the intent behind the driver’s actions. Reckless driving involves the driver deciding to endanger others. While in careless driving, the driver does not intend to possibly cause harm. They are operating the vehicle irresponsibly and make mistakes, but they have no wanton disregard or malice.

Speed is Not Enough for a Reckless Driving Conviction 

Speeding can help with your injury claim to show that the driver was acting negligently, which led to the collision. Sometimes, however, speed is grossly excessive. An example of grossly excessive speed is a person driving 120 in a 55 mph speed limit. While excessive speed is illegal and can lead to a crash, it is insufficient for a reckless driving penalty alone.

When speed is a contributing factor, the driver might combine excessive speed with other actions to constitute reckless driving. Suppose a person is speeding and improperly passes someone else. That is enough for a reckless driving ticket.

Other examples of actions that combined with speeding might constitute reckless driving include:

  • Failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision
  • Disregarding children in the area
  • Traveling in the middle of the road
  • Driving through a crowded residential area
  • Ignoring traffic control
  • Intoxication
  • Failure to look for pedestrians
  • Weaving in and out of the road
  • Fleeing a law enforcement officer

These actions can constitute reckless driving independently or in conjunction with speeding. However, speeding in tandem with these actions leads to additional penalties and severe injuries for victims.

What Are the Consequences of Reckless Driving?

Reckless driving ruins the lives of the driver and the victims if a collision occurs. Sometimes death occurs, leaving families devastated. Disability and extreme financial loss are also prevalent in these cases.

Reckless driving can lead to a slew of car accidents, including:

  • Rear-end crashes: tailgating is an aggressive and reckless action that drivers take to intimidate the lead vehicle. They cannot stop in time to prevent a collision if the lead drivers must react to something up ahead.
  • Head-on collisions: reckless driving is a lead contributor to head-on collisions. Reckless drivers will veer from their lane and into oncoming traffic. Drivers take these actions when they are trying to pass on a two-lane road or when they are impaired.
  • T-bone collisions: ignoring traffic signs and speeding through an intersection can lead to T-bone collisions. These are reckless actions because the driver decides to ignore the red light.
  • Pedestrian and bicycle crashes: when drivers go onto the sidewalk or speed through a crosswalk, there are pedestrians and bicyclists in those areas. These parties are highly vulnerable to severe injuries and death. Reckless drivers cannot stop in time to prevent these collisions.
  • Teen tragedies: teen drivers are at a higher risk for reckless driving, ruining their lives. They are inexperienced and unsure how to handle or identify dangerous conditions. They also make critical errors. These decisions can lead to tragedy and criminal charges for teens who have yet to start their lives.

What is Underage Reckless Driving?

Consequences will vary for the reckless driver and any accident victims. An underage or unlicensed driver can still receive citations. If a driver has no license, they cannot receive points on their license, but they will face other penalties. These drivers often face criminal misdemeanor charges, which can result in fines and possible jail time.

When the person does get a license, charges will affect insurance rates and future opportunities. Unfortunately, teens and underage drivers might not have sufficient insurance coverage. You must work with your car accident attorney to find avenues for compensation. Even when a driver is uninsured or underinsured, you can often pursue compensation in other ways.

CDL Drivers and Reckless Driving

Truck drivers must get special licenses and training before operating a commercial vehicle. With the additional training, they will also have a higher duty to others. If a CDL driver participates in reckless driving, they will get a license suspension for a second offense. They can lose their employment and suffer other penalties.

The size of a truck makes it an inherently dangerous vehicle. When you combine the size of the truck and reckless driving, it can have devastating consequences. Truck drivers and trucking companies can both be liable for resulting injuries, and these companies have greater insurance policies. Victims in a reckless driving accident with a commercial vehicle can use these higher limits to get full compensation for current and future losses.

Reckless Driving and Your Personal Injury Claim

Reckless Driving Accident Lawyer New Port Richey FL

Reckless driving can affect an injury claim in several ways. You can pursue compensation regardless of the driver’s specific actions if they were negligent and caused your injuries. However, reckless driving will determine how your lawyer will present the evidence to the insurance company or defense attorney.

Since the biggest hurdle in injury claims is proving negligence and liability, reckless driving infractions can help your claim. If the driver caused your injuries and is now facing reckless driving charges, your attorney can use it as key evidence for your claim. The reckless driving conviction will show the driver was liable for the accident.

When recovering from your injuries, your last concern should be navigating the legal process for your claim. Allow a legal professional to handle this.

Reckless Driving and Your Injuries

Car accidents of any kind can lead to severe injuries. However, collisions involving reckless driving might have a higher probability of severe injuries. You will need a substantial settlement if severe injuries require significant treatment and result in higher costs.

Examples of injuries that can occur in a reckless driving accident include:

  • Spinal cord trauma: it can lead to partial or total paralysis. These injuries permanently affect a person’s life and require years of medical treatment.
  • Traumatic brain injury: victims can suffer trauma by hitting their head on the dashboard or other hard surfaces. The impact can lead to life-altering cognitive injuries. These often require extensive medical treatment and long-term disability.
  • Facial injuries: items can fly around inside the car, leading to facial lacerations. Injuries can also include eye injuries, facial fractures, and nerve damage.
  • Torso injuries: reckless driving collisions can lead to injuries to the chest and torso.
  • Burn injuries: fire or explosion can occur from a reckless driving accident. Burns can cause permanent disfigurement and scars. Treatment often involves surgery or skin grafts,
  • Amputations: you can lose a limb during the collision or, from the severity of the injuries, resulting in a medical amputation. Losing a limb can lead to disfigurement, chronic pain, and mobility concerns.

While these are some of the worst outcomes of a reckless driving accident, many other injuries can happen. Your injuries and losses can have a devastating effect on your life. You deserve compensation and justice from the reckless driver.

Compensation is a Critical Part of Your Recovery

A totaled car, piling medical bills, loss of employment, and more are all losses you can suffer after a reckless driving collision. When you begin to calculate these losses, you can become overwhelmed by what you are facing. You need to hold the driver financially responsible for your losses to move forward with your life with minimal struggles.

You can recover compensation for various losses stemming from the collision:

  • Lost income
  • Reduced earning capacity
  • Current and future medical costs
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Mental anguish
  • Property damage
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Disability

These are some standard damages for car accidents. You must discuss what applies to your case with your car accident attorney. There are other damages you might qualify for not listed here.

Punitive Damages are Possible

Punitive damages apply in extreme cases of misconduct. Since reckless driving is a criminal charge, it might be a reason to seek punitive damages. Punitive damages do not relate to your injuries or other expenses. These damages are solely to punish the driver for their actions. There are specific procedures to get these damages, and it is up to the court to determine how much you can get. Your car accident lawyer can help you determine if you qualify for these damages and the likelihood that the judge will award them.

Arguing Your Reckless Driving Accident

Reckless driving accidents are preventable, which makes them more frustrating for victims. While the collision’s circumstances are apparent to you, the insurance company requires substantial proof of the cause, liability, damages, and more.

Your local car accident lawyer will take several actions to prove your claim, such as:

  • Investigation: an investigation will involve reviewing police reports, interviewing witnesses, searching for video or photographic evidence, and much more.
  • Compelling evidence: aside from the preliminary evidence, we will also look at cell phone records, traffic history reports, and blood alcohol screening tests. The more evidence we can find for your collisions, the better we can present your claim to the insurance company.
  • Working with experts: sometimes, we must involve experts to help prove your claim. A reconstruction expert can evaluate evidence to show the underlying causes of the crash and liability. Depending on the circumstances, health and economic experts can also benefit your case.
  • Proving negligence: the previous actions will lead us to prove negligence. This can often involve a legal violation like speeding or reckless actions. Evidence will show that the person committed an offense and that their insurer must pay for your losses.
  • Handling insurance claims: the claim process is complex, and the burden of paperwork, in addition to medical treatment, can be too much for many victims to handle. We will handle all communication with the insurance company, including paperwork.
  • Negotiations: Compensation can take time, and the insurance company will fight for a lower settlement. Your local reckless driving injury lawyer will fight for the highest settlement possible. Since both parties have different goals, negotiations can take time.
  • Litigation: when negotiations are not fruitful, the subsequent legal action is to go into litigation. This requires filing a lawsuit, entering discovery, and continuing negotiations until trial. Mediation is another action that can help you resolve your case.

Immediately following a reckless driving accident, you must discuss your options with a local car accident lawyer.

Contact a Reckless Driving Accident Lawyer Near You

Personal Injury Attorney in New Port Richey, FL area
Christopher C. Dyer, Accident and Injury Attorney in New Port Richey, FL

Reckless driving is plaguing our roads, and you never know when a person will choose to endanger everyone around them. These accidents are preventable and dangerous, but that does not stop drivers from breaking the law. If you are in a reckless driving accident, you have options.

You must focus on your physical healing and let a car accident lawyer focus on the legal process. Schedule a free consultation today with a trusted law firm near you.