What is Reckless Driving?
The law considers reckless driving different from negligence. The liable party could face jail time and other consequences, especially if someone sustained injuries. Tampa connects to highways, and the city contains multiple tourist locations. Aggressive driving is likely to occur. If you are a victim of reckless behavior, you may file a claim. The losses can cost you a lot of money, and compensation minimizes the struggle. The lawsuit process can become complex since you need to prove the other person is at fault. A Tampa car accident lawyer assists you every step of the way.
Risk Factors of Reckless Driving
Harsh weather conditions mean drivers need to exercise caution to remain safe on the road. Tampa commonly sees frequent thunderstorms and tropical storms at certain times of the year. Residents have to prepare for hazardous conditions. Reckless driving in the rain increases the risk of an accident. The driver is less likely to slow down even during a storm. The rain makes the streets slippery, and vehicles can slide easily on the wet concrete. Reckless motorists are less likely to notice road signs, especially during harsh weather.
Another risk factor is impaired driving. Places like Tampa are home to thousands of people, and thousands more tend to visit. The city is more likely to experience crashes with drunk drivers. Alcohol reduces judgment, reaction times, and coordination. Erratic behaviors occur as a result. Additionally, alcohol can cause mood changes. Someone could become frustrated or angry and display aggressive driving. Florida sees about 746 drunk driving fatalities every year. While the rate has gone down in recent years, authorities still face drunk driving accidents.
Lack of Experience
Young drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are more likely to engage in reckless driving behaviors. The age group has a higher risk of car crashes than older motorists. The chances specifically increase in the first few months following a new license. Young motorists have less experience and tend to get distracted more. Teenagers might have gone above the speed limit at the time of the accident.
Penalties for Reckless Driving
A person can face more than a ticket when they drive recklessly. The penalties for the offense depend on where someone resides. Residents of Tampa could get a second-degree misdemeanor for a first offense with no injuries or property damage. The individual could receive up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. Repeated violations mean a maximum of six months of jail time and $1,000 in fines. However, the presence of bodily injuries or property damage raises the charge to a first-degree misdemeanor. The convicted driver might get up to 12 months in jail or a year of probation. Additionally, the penalty includes a maximum $1,000 fine. If the bodily injury is severe, the motorist gets a third-degree felony. The felony charge means either a maximum of five years of prison or probation. The imposed fine increases to $5,000 as well. Another penalty for reckless driving is the suspension of a driver’s license. Many states use a point-based system for traffic violations. Reckless driving leads to four points in Florida. A suspension occurs if someone obtains enough points in a set time frame. The length of the punishment relies on the number of points on a person’s license.
How Reckless Behavior Affects Insurance Rates
A major violation, like reckless driving, makes an individual a high-risk driver for automobile insurance companies. The at-fault driver can expect to pay a higher premium. In Florida, the increase in annual insurance rates is an average of $680. The changes in what you have to pay can depend on the specific insurer.
Losses From a Reckless Driving Accident
The victims of reckless driving collisions have to experience consequences as well. They need to pay the costs of repair or replacement of damaged property. You might have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to fix your vehicle. Property damage includes personal items inside the car. Someone might have ruined your fence or mailbox, and you have to pay for repairs.
Many injured people have to spend money on medical bills as well. People should see a doctor even if they do not appear visibly hurt. They can confirm if they have unseen injuries or not. The result is a bill for the doctor’s visit and any prescribed treatment. If a person has severe injuries, they could accumulate medical debt. The average cost of visiting the emergency room is about $1,082. Someone without healthcare insurance has to pay more. Of course, the bill increases if the patient must stay in the hospital for one or more days. Surgeries and other procedures add more bills to the list of expenses.
The cost of repairs and medical treatment reduces your monetary funds significantly. Additionally, you might not receive much in your monthly income for a while. Acute injuries from a car accident can mean bed rest. Therefore, you are unable to work for multiple days. Do not deal with the financial consequences alone. A lawyer can help you get the compensation you need to get back on your feet.
Common Defense Strategies
In many car accident cases, careless behavior is the cause. However, reckless driving requires more than proof of negligence. The at-fault driver needs to have driven the vehicle with willful disregard for other people’s safety. You must prove the other party displayed purposeful and conscious indifference to the possible consequences. Your lawyer must investigate the defendant’s actions, physical injuries, property damage, and the surrounding area. During the legal process, the opposing party may use one or more strategies to avoid reckless driving penalties. They include:
- Driving behavior. The defendant could argue they did not drive willfully and wantonly. They might have acted with negligence, or extenuating circumstances contributed to the crash.
- Unreliable witnesses. The witnesses you bring can provide crucial statements to prove the other person is at fault. The other side could try to question the witness’s credibility. Memories can get confused, and video footage might refute a claim.
- Shift the blame. When defendants try to prove their innocence, they could say you are the one at fault. The goal is to lessen or get rid of your potential compensation.
- Statute of limitations. All reckless driving accidents have a deadline for when you can pursue damages. Afterward, the judge will likely dismiss the case. The opposing side could argue you missed the statute of limitations. Delays are a common tactic.
Not everyone knows how to navigate the legal system. The other party can use the lack of experience against the plaintiff. A reckless driving lawyer can prevent a defense strategy from ruining your chances of compensation.
What if the Other Driver Has No Insurance?
Insurance companies typically are the ones to cover the costs of bodily harm and property damage. However, you might wonder what your options are if the reckless driver has no insurance. States like Florida require all drivers to carry personal injury protection. The policy helps cover losses if you get in a collision with an uninsured motorist, no matter who is at fault. You need to go to a healthcare provider within 14 days to obtain coverage. Most of the compensation from the insurance goes toward medical care. A small portion helps with lost wages, and you could receive some additional money if a loved one had died. In some cases, the personal injury protection coverage fails to provide adequate compensation. Treatment for a severe injury could cost plenty of money, and a policy might have a limit. Some people purchase uninsured motorist coverage. The policy pays your claim if you prove the motorist caused the accident. Usually, uninsured motorist coverage is equal to your personal liability insurance limit. Another option is to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. If the person has no insurance, they likely have minimal financial assets. The money you acquire from them in a settlement might not be enough. You should hire a reckless driving attorney regardless. A lawyer works endlessly to make sure you get the results you need.
What Should You Avoid?
After a car accident with a reckless driver, what you say or do can help or hurt your case. What you should not say is an apology. The reason is an apology can sound like an admission of fault. The other side could use your statement against you, and their insurer might deny your claim. Avoid claims about not being hurt. The adrenaline from the accident typically prevents people from noticing pain. Brain injuries can take a while to present symptoms. You might discover a severe medical condition later on. If you initially say you are not hurt, the insurance company could say you exaggerate your injuries later. Try to discuss the accident with others as little as possible. Lawyers advise clients not to mention the case on social media. The other side could use an online post to build their argument. You can explain the situation to an officer. However, your statement should not sound like speculation. Additionally, minimize your contact with the other side’s insurance company. Insurance adjusters look for ways to use your recorded statement to dismiss your claim.
Evidence to Prove Reckless Driving
If the cause of reckless driving is excessive alcohol, you can use the results of field sobriety tests as evidence. The tests are admissible in court, and they can show the driver’s blood alcohol content was above the legal limit. Usually, 20 miles above the speed limit counts as reckless driving. If a police officer saw the person speeding before the accident, they could testify. Many officers have training in the estimation of a vehicle’s speed. Additionally, they could show the measurement from a radar or laser device. Another piece of evidence you can use is video footage. Your dashcam or the camera from another vehicle might have caught visuals of the driver’s erratic behavior. Many streets and highways have cameras as well. After an accident, you should get the name and number of any witnesses. You can get a statement from them to prove the at-fault party was reckless. Your attorney may hire an expert witness. Expert witnesses have the skills and knowledge to explain what they believe happened.
What Happens if the Defendant Passes Away
After an accident, the defendant could die due to their injuries. They might pass away because of an unrelated cause as well. Even though the reckless driver is deceased, you can still pursue a claim with their insurance company. If the driver’s insurance is not enough to cover your losses, you can obtain compensation from their estate. You need to follow specific procedural steps to file a claim against the estate. During the lawsuit, a personal representative would represent the deceased defendant. However, the person may have had no insurance and little to no estate. As a result, the plaintiff might not get much compensation. Consult an attorney to learn your options if the liable party dies before a case resolves.
Children in Reckless Driving Accidents
A child might have experienced a reckless driving incident. Some people are unsure how an underaged victim affects a case. Children can recover damages in a claim, and they receive money for similar losses an adult accumulates. For example, your child can get compensation for surgery and hospital bills. Rehabilitation and other future medical expenses count toward a settlement. If a minor had a job, they could acquire compensation for lost wages. Other damages include mental anguish. Since a minor is under 18, they cannot file a claim. A parent or legal guardian has to represent a child in a lawsuit. Additionally, children do not control the settlement and cannot access the money. Payments could go to the parents, and the parents use the compensation to pay for related expenses. Alternatively, a settlement goes into a fund. The child receives payment when they become a legal adult.