While many individuals take the responsibility of safe driving seriously, many others do not. Motor vehicle accidents cause the deaths of around 36,000 people in the United States each year and result in serious injuries to many thousands more. In the age of cell phones and tablets, distracted driving is becoming an increasingly common problem throughout the country, and drunk driving continues to plague our nation’s roadways.
If you sustained an injury because of a reckless driver, you can seek compensation for the financial and psychological impacts of your injury. An experienced car accident attorney can help manage your case, so reach out to one today. Below, we provide general information related to reckless driving claims.
What Is Reckless Driving?
Reckless driving is any driving behavior that endangers the life and property of another person. While this definition varies some from state to state, the mental state of the at-fault party at the time of the accident is of great importance, as reckless driving charges typically indicate an irreverence or indifference toward someone’s safety.
While anyone is capable of driving recklessly, the practice is particularly dangerous for teens and young adults. Teen drivers are more than three times more likely to die in a car accident than drivers over 20, generally because of inexperience and more frequently engaging in reckless behaviors, such as texting. A third of all teens admit that they have texted while driving, and teens are more likely to commit other reckless driving behaviors as well, including driving at excessive speeds.
Reckless drivers face stiff civil and criminal consequences when they cause an accident that injures others. Penalties include criminal penalties such as fines and incarceration and civil liability for the injuries and fatalities that resulted from the behavior. Reckless drivers also see an increase to insurance premiums of up to 70 percent as the insurance provider perceives a reckless charge as an increased risk that the driver will cause another accident in the future that will result in the payment of another claim.
The most common types of reckless driving behaviors to result in accidents are:
- Speeding. States that have increased their speed limits have also experienced a corresponding increase in injuries and fatal accidents.
- Impairment by alcohol or drugs, which results in more than 5,000 deaths a year and is a factor in about 10 percent of all fatal crashes in the U.S.
- Failure to stay in the proper lane and failure to yield the right-of-way. These two reckless driving behaviors accounted for about 7,500 deaths or 14 percent of the fatalities in motor vehicle accidents in the U.S.
- Distractions, including cell phone use, eating, drinking, visiting with passengers, and external distractions, such as previous accident scenes or work zones, are responsible for around 5,000 deaths a year.
Types of Reckless Driving
Drivers often engage in many different activities that may affect their ability to drive safely. While some may seem less serious, such as eating while driving, others are known to result in extreme danger, such as driving while intoxicated. Regardless, engaging in any activity that affects your ability to drive safely may qualify as reckless driving. Several risky driving behaviors legally constitute reckless driving.
Those behaviors include:
- Speeding: Approximately one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities result from speeding, with more than 9,000 deaths attributed to excessive speed each year. Speeding refers not only to driving faster than the posted speed limit, but also driving too fast for conditions, such as weather, traffic, and road surfaces. Speeding reduces both the time the driver has to react to a hazard and the effectiveness of the vehicle’s protective equipment. Going slightly over the speed limit will likely not constitute reckless driving, but if the driver’s speed exceeds the speed limit by more than 15 mph, it may.
- Racing other vehicles: Most states have laws that prohibit drivers from engaging in speed contests on roadways, as these contests often end with an accident involving one of the racers, and may even involve other drivers who are not participating in or aware of the racing.
- Passing on blind curves: Passing on a curve is risky because your view of the opposing travel lane is limited, meaning you cannot see an approaching vehicle. This leaves you and others on the roadway at risk of experiencing a dangerous or even deadly head-on collision.
- Swerving and cutting in and out of lanes: Part of safe driving is communicating intentions to other drivers by using turn signals. Drivers who are recklessly swerving in and out of traffic generally do not signal their intentions, leaving other drivers to attempt to guess what will happen next.
- Impairment or fatigue: Impairment by drugs and alcohol as well as extreme fatigue can create deficits in the skills that a driver needs to drive safely. Some of these deficits can include the inability to control one’s speed or maintain one’s travel lane, the inability to react quickly in emergency driving situations, and difficulty in making good decisions.
- Passing stopped school buses: All states have requirements that drivers stop when a school bus is stopped ahead and has its stop sign extended. Passing a stopped school bus creates a risk of striking children as they get off the bus and cross the street or striking a parent or other care provider who is crossing the street to retrieve the child from the bus. Drivers in the opposing travel lanes generally must stop for the school bus as well, unless the roadway features several lanes and a median divider between directions of travel.
- Running a red light or a stop sign: Failing to yield at an intersection by running a red light or stop sign is one of the most common causes of intersection accidents, including the often deadly broadside accident, which occurs when the front of one vehicle strikes the side of another. This type of accident often results in the most serious injuries to passengers sitting on the side of the struck vehicle, as the doors of vehicles do not offer a lot of protection. This is particularly true if a large size discrepancy exists between the vehicles.
- Fleeing from police: If a driver flees from police—even if the chase is not particularly high-speed—and crashes into another vehicle, the driver may face criminal and civil liability for causing an accident while driving recklessly.
- Cell phone use: No one is immune to driving distractions. However, some distractions are more dangerous than others, including texting and other cell phone use. Three types of distractions can endanger drivers. Manual distractions involve anything that causes a driver to take his or her hands from the wheel. Visual distractions are anything that causes a driver to take his or her eyes from the road. Cognitive distractions involve anything that causes a driver’s focus and attention to drift away from the task of driving safely. Texting and other cell phone use, such as checking email or browsing social media, involves all three types of distractions. In fact, in the time it takes to read or reply to a text, an email, or a social media post, a driver would have traveled the length of a football field without paying attention to the road.
Have You Sustained an Injury Caused by a Reckless Driver?
There are many types of driving behaviors that constitute reckless driving and are capable of causing serious injury or even death to other users of the roadway. Unfortunately, all reckless driving behaviors are capable of producing serious or even fatal injuries. Two of the most severe injuries that a person can suffer—traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries—are both commonly caused by motor vehicle accidents, including those caused by reckless drivers.
If you have sustained an injury or lost a loved one due to the actions of a reckless driver, you can seek compensation through a car accident or a wrongful death lawsuit, depending on the circumstances.
These often complex claims may involve multiple different parties, including powerful insurance companies that don’t like to pay out claims unless they have to, so enlisting the services of an experienced accident attorney is the best way to ensure that your rights are protected, that you understand what’s going on in your case, and that you recover maximum compensation.
In both the car accident and the wrongful death claims processes, you must prove who caused your accident to obtain compensation from that individual’s insurance provider.
To prove liability, you must establish:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. The duty of care is the way that a reasonable person would act in a given set of circumstances. A driver owes a duty of care to other users of the roadway—to drive safely and legally.
- The at-fault party breached the duty of care. The breach refers to actions that the at-fault party took that contradicted the duty of care. Reckless driving behaviors are unsafe and usually illegal.
- The breach caused the accident that resulted in your injuries and caused you to incur out-of-pocket expenses and impacts on your quality of life.
The Compensation You Can Receive
Both car accident lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits allow injured individuals to recover both economic and non-economic damages. Damages compensate an individual for harm sustained in an accident caused by someone else. Economic damages compensate for financial impacts, while non-economic damages are compensation for psychological impacts.
The expenses and impacts that compensate an injured individual after a reckless driver accident include:
- Medical expenses
- Wage loss
- Loss of future earning capacity
- The cost of repairing or replacing a damaged car
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
- Loss of the enjoyment of life
Spouses, parents, children, and other family members wholly or partially dependent on an individual for support and services can seek compensation for expenses and impacts of that individual’s death through a wrongful death lawsuit.
The recoverable damages in this type of action include:
- The value of the support and services that the deceased provided to his or her family members
- Loss of companionship, guidance, and protection that was provided to family members by the deceased
- Mental and emotional pain incurred through the loss of a child
- Medical and funeral expenses that a family member directly paid
The deceased’s estate can also receive damages, including:
- The loss of wages and benefits that the deceased probably would have earned throughout his or her career if not for the death
- Loss of prospective net accumulations to the estate
Medical and funeral expenses that the estate paid
Contact a Car Accident Attorney
In a matter of seconds, a reckless driver can change your life and the lives of your loved ones forever. If you’ve sustained injuries or lost a loved one in an accident caused by reckless driving, contact an experienced car accident lawyer to discuss the details of your accident and determine your eligibility to pursue compensation for your injuries.