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What Is Reckless Driving?
Under Florida law, reckless driving is defined as operating any vehicle “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property….” That is, reckless driving means that the driver is intentionally, knowingly, and purposefully operating a vehicle with conscious and intentional indifference to consequences and with knowledge that there is a likelihood of damage to property or injury to people. Whether a person is guilty of reckless driving for criminal or civil liability purposes is a fact-dependent inquiry that examines the person’s actions, the surrounding circumstances, and the foreseeability that property damage or injury to people may occur.
Florida law requires that all drivers exercise due caution and ordinary and reasonable care to ensure the safety of others sharing the roads. However, when a person drives recklessly, he or she breaches that duty of care that all drivers are required to observe when operating a vehicle on Florida roads. Behaviors that can contribute to a judgment of reckless driving include, but are certainly not limited to:
- Running stop signs and red lights
- Passing other vehicles in a dangerous manner
- Passing a stopped school bus illegally
- Driving at speeds in excess of 20 mph of posted speed limit
- Driving with headlights off after dusk
- Racing other vehicles on the road
- Weaving in-and-out of traffic
- Driving while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
- Texting while driving and other forms of distracted driving
- Tailgating (following vehicle in front too closely)
- Failing to yield the right of way
It is important to keep in mind that, in general, the presence of any of the above behaviors alone is not necessarily sufficient for a finding of reckless driving for purposes of a criminal conviction or damage award in a civil lawsuit. A driver’s behavior must be examined against the backdrop of all the facts and circumstances present at the time of the driver’s alleged reckless driving. An effective way to get a better understand of what type of scenarios constitutes reckless driving under Florida law is to take a look at some real life examples in which the drivers were convicted of reckless driving at their criminal trial.
- Driver traveling at over 80 mph in a residential area and then abruptly making a U-turn
- Driver traveling at two times the posted speed limit in congested traffic and making no attempt to avoid crashing into stopped vehicle
- Driver drinking alcohol, speeding excessively, passing other vehicles in dangerous manner, and making no attempt to take evasive action to avoid a crash
- Driver speeding, disregarding red and yellow traffic lights, and missing lug nut and worn down tire thread
- Driver traveling at excessive speed and passing other vehicles on the shoulder of the road in heavy traffic
Notably, by Florida statute, any driver who is fleeing from police or other law enforcement officer is guilty of reckless driving per se, meaning such behavior alone is, in fact, sufficient for a determination of reckless driving, regardless of whether other elements ordinarily associated with reckless driving are present.
Help for Victims of Reckless Drivers
Victims do not have to take on reckless drivers, insurances companies, defense lawyers, and their array of paid experts. In the American legal system, victims of reckless drivers are entitled to their own lawyers and experts following an accident. This right to legal representation can effectively level the playing field for victims. But victims must exercise extreme care in choosing a lawyer whose experience, temperament, and expertise are well-suited to handling reckless driving cases in Florida, which are notoriously complex, technical, and emotional.
In general, it is best to seek a lawyer who specializes in traffic accident cases, especially one with extensive experience specifically representing victims of reckless drivers. You would not turn to your primary care physician to perform open heart surgery on you or a loved one; instead, you would naturally go to a surgeon who specializes in performing open heart surgeries. It is similarly advisable to retain a traffic accident lawyer who specializes in reckless driving cases. Our renowned West Palm Beach traffic accident lawyers have well over 50 years of combined experience in Florida successfully representing victims of reckless drivers.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a reckless driver, contact us now to learn how our compassionate and highly successful team of West Palm Beach car accident lawyers can help you recover everything to which you are entitled under Florida, as well as federal, law.
There is no charge for our professional case evaluation, so contact us today worry-free to begin the process of preserving your rights, obtaining fair and reasonable compensation, and holding the reckless driver responsible for your suffering accountable for his or her actions.
Do I Have to Call My Insurance Company?
Yes! Call your insurance company after any traffic accident, regardless of who’s at-fault. Florida is a so-called “no-fault” state. This means that after a crash you’ll have to file a claim against your own insurance company, regardless of which party or parties are at-fault.
You should also contact an experienced traffic accident lawyer immediately to help guide you through the no-fault claims process. It’s an extremely complex system comprised of a maze of highly technical rules, deadlines, and procedures that’s difficult for victims to successfully navigate on their own. An experienced traffic accident lawyer will eliminate the stress and take the guesswork out of dealing with the insurance company and ensure you receive the maximum compensation to which you are entitled.
In a no-fault state like Florida, accident victims turn to their own insurance company first to pay for their medical bills, lost earnings, and the costs incurred for replacement services, i.e., any service needed due to the loss of ability caused by the accident such as housekeeping. This is true no matter which party or parties caused the traffic accident.
Personal Injury Protection
Florida’s no-fault insurance law requires all motorists to carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) insurance. It’s this PIP insurance that covers all accident victims up to their policy limit no matter who is at-fault for the crash. Your PIP insurance coverage also protects you when you’re a passenger in someone else’s motor vehicle, a pedestrian, or a bicyclist in the event you sustain injuries in a crash involving a motor vehicle.
It’s extremely important to act promptly after your traffic accident. In order to make a successful PIP claim, you must receive initial medical treatment by an authorized healthcare provider within 14 days after the traffic accident. Failure to comply with this deadline along with the many other technical rules governing the PIP insurance claims process may result in a denial of benefits.
The total cost of medical expenses and lost income can quickly exceed the legally required minimum PIP coverage limit even in cases involving relatively minor traffic accidents. When PIP benefits are exhausted, you must then look towards other forms of insurance coverage, such as Medical Payments, Uninsured Motorists, etc., and possibly the at-fault parties involved in the crash. This interaction of the PIP claims process, other forms of insurance coverage, and the at-fault parties and their insurance companies results in a tremendous degree of complexity that easily overwhelms accident victims.
That is why it’s essential to have an experienced traffic accident lawyer working for you to guide you through the PIP insurance claims process and help ensure that you receive all the compensation to which you are entitled under the law.
Don’t Take on Insurance Companies by Yourself
The unfortunate reality is fair and reasonable compensation to help victims become whole again, i.e., placed in approximately the same physical, mental, and financial state as before the accident resulting in injuries and loss through financial compensation, is not simply given to victims automatically based on justice and fairness. In fact, insurance companies often aggressively fight even obviously legitimate claims.
The fact is insurance companies make money by denying claims and paying out as little as possible. This holds true for both the victim’s own insurance company as well as those of the other parties involved in the traffic accident. Victims are forced to take the initiative and proactively seek out and fight for fair and reasonable compensation within a system that is strategically stacked against them.
This entails going up against insurance companies and a variety of other very sophisticated parties all with self-serving interests in paying as little compensation as possible, regardless of the severity of injuries to victims or how despicable the behavior of reckless drivers may be. Insurance companies are notorious for establishing claims procedures and institutional mechanisms that make it as difficult as possible for victims to obtain fair compensation. They have been known to deliberately make the claims process as complex and frustrating as they can in the hopes that victims will feel overwhelmed, give up, and accept lowball settlement offers. This strategy is highly effective with respect to victims who don’t have an experienced traffic accident lawyer on their side.
To make the situation even worse, victims are faced with this seemingly impossible task at a time when they are likely at their most vulnerable and desperate point in their life. Even under the best of circumstances, it is virtually impossible for the average person alone to successfully battle insurance companies and their army of lawyers and paid expert witnesses. No matter how obviously deserving of compensation a victim may be, no insurance company is going to simply provide a fair and reasonable settlement offer to the victim merely because he or she deserves it.
Don’t let the insurance companies decide what your claim is worth. And don’t let them bully you into giving up valuable rights or accepting less than what you are entitled to under the law.
Contact us today for a free initial consultation and case evaluation. We have the experience, expertise, and resources to successfully take on the insurance companies.
Criminal and Civil Liability
Reckless driving can result in both criminal as well as civil proceedings against the offender. A reckless driver can face years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines if convicted in a criminal case. In addition, if property has been damaged and/or people have been injured, the victim(s) can sue the driver for damages in a civil lawsuit. Whether a driver has been charged criminally, though, does not have any bearing on a victim’s right to file suit against the driver in civil court for damages since the two types of cases proceed independently of each other in entirely separate court systems.
However, if the driver has been charged and/or convicted in criminal proceedings, that can serve as extremely compelling evidence in a civil case. This is especially true in the case of a conviction since the burden of proof is much greater in a criminal case than a civil case. On the other hand, if the driver has not been criminally charged, that fact alone does not necessarily mean that the victim does not have a viable or even strong case against the driver. Remember, the burden of proof for a conviction in a criminal case is much greater than the burden necessary for victory in a civil case for damages.
But this type of case comparison and analysis can be extremely complex and nuanced, so in order to protect your rights, you should consult with an experienced lawyer who specializes in these types of cases before making any decision to settle, pursue, or not pursue a civil case
Potential Damages Awarded in Reckless Driving Cases
Damage awards in cases involving reckless driving can be quite substantial. They are generally described as ‘enhanced value’ cases. Reckless driving crashes implicate a legal concept commonly referred to as ‘aggravated negligence,’ which frequently leads to much higher damage awards and settlement amounts for victims than accidents involving ordinary negligence.
Virtually all traffic accidents are the result of negligence by at least one of the parties involved. For example, when a driver rear-ends the vehicle in front because the driver was following too closely, his or her negligence was the cause of the accident. But the driver’s behavior wasn’t an egregious and wanton disregard for the safety and welfare of others. It was an instance of ordinary negligence.
In contrast, for example, in a situation where a driver is traveling 20+ mph over the speed limit, weaving in and out of traffic and cutting off other drivers in the process, passing other vehicles on the shoulder of the road, and eventually causes a serious crash, the driver’s behavior will likely be characterized as reckless. As such, the degree of negligence involved will also likely be classified as ‘aggravated,’ meaning the damage award or settlement amount for the victims will likely be much higher than if the driver had been guilty of ordinary negligence.
Simply put, cases involving aggravated negligence will generally result in a sizable damage award or settlement amount. Our traffic accident lawyers have been successfully handling aggravated negligence cases on behalf of clients for decades. We have the experience and expertise to help you with your aggravated negligence claim.
Damages Awarded Depend on the Facts of the Case
Naturally, the specific types of damages and amounts that may be awarded depend upon the facts and circumstances of each individual case. There are literally dozens of factors that contribute to the settlement value or jury award amount of an injury claim. As such, what someone you know received or the amount an injured victim claims to have obtained in a law firm’s advertisement will have virtually no bearing on the actual value of your claim. That is why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable traffic accident lawyer who specializes in reckless driving cases in order to protect your rights and provide a fact-based, experience-driven assessment of the potential value of your injury or damage claim.
Otherwise, without an objective and reasonable valuation of your case based on an experienced traffic accident lawyer’s expert opinion, you could unwittingly accept a settlement offer that is dramatically lower or holdout in vain for an offer that is unrealistically higher than the generally accepted valuation range of your case based on all the facts and circumstances involved. In either scenario, the very real possibility exists that you will not be fairly and fully compensated, if at all, for your injuries, personal property, out-of-pocket expenses, and/or lost income.
Below is a list of the most common types of compensatory damages awarded in reckless driving cases. As the name implies, compensatory damages are intended to compensate the injured party and help him or her return to the physical, emotional, and financial state he or she was in prior to the injury. They are generally classified as either Noneconomic Damages or Economic Damages.
- Bodily injury and associated pain and suffering
- Disability and physical impairment
- Loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life
- Mental anguish (if associated with a physical injury)
- Past lost income
- Future lost income
- Past medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Replacement value of damaged or lost personal property
- Mileage (travel to medical appointments and pharmacy)
In some limited traffic accident cases, punitive damages may also be recovered in addition to any compensatory damages. This type of damage award is generally available only when the offender’s conduct is especially reprehensible and reckless. Punitive damages are typically available only when the offender acted with malice, willfulness, moral turpitude, or reckless indifference for the safety and welfare of others. That is, punitive damages are not available in cases involving only simple negligence, which is present in virtually every traffic accident. The offender’s behavior must go beyond that of simple negligence before punitive damages are even a possibility.
Some examples of behavior that can potentially lead to punitive damages include scenarios in which the offender:
- Is charged with a crime in connection with the accident such as manslaughter
- Drives at an extremely reckless speed
- Fails to stop at the accident scene
- Is voluntarily intoxicated
- Knowingly fails to maintain vehicle in a reasonably safe condition that leads to the accident
The primary purpose of punitive damages is not to compensate the victim for any actual loss; rather, it is to punish and deter the offender’s particularly heinous behavior. Although punitive damages are intended to punish the offender, their purpose is not to bankrupt him or her. The offender’s financial situation is taken into consideration when determining the amount of punitive damages. Under Florida law, for most personal injury cases, punitive damages are capped at either three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
It’s important for victims to understand that simply because punitive damages may be available to them in light of the facts involved they are not awarded automatically. Victims must specifically plead (or request) and prove entitlement to them. If you’ve been seriously injured in an accident due to the reckless actions of someone else, you need to have an experienced traffic accident lawyer on your side, so you receive everything to which you are entitled under the law.
Reckless Driving Accident Lawyer West Palm BeachWhen you’ve been injured by a reckless driver, you need an experienced West Palm Beach car accident lawyer—our firm has been helping victims like you for over 20 years. Being the victim of a reckless driver can be devastating. Victims often sustain agonizing, potentially life-threatening and life-altering physical and emotional injuries; face the prospect of financial ruin; and experience a catastrophic disruption to their entire way of life. The team of traffic accident professionals at our West Palm Beach law firm understand what you’re going through. You have questions about how much your claim is worth and how long it’ll take to get a fair settlement. Our experienced traffic accident lawyers will give you straight, simple answers to all your questions, including medical payment coverage, personal injuries, property damage, and lost income, as well as assist you with completing necessary paperwork and guide you every step of the way through the legal and insurance claims processes.
Contact Us Today for Your Free Case Evaluation!
Don’t try to take on the insurance companies by yourself—get one of our experienced West Palm Beach traffic accident lawyers on your side and working hard for you.
Contact us today and get the legal help you need and deserve!
"After getting into my first car accident I was really worried about the whole legal process and Bill Bone's office was amazing at easing my mind and answering any and all questions I had! Mr. Bone and his team made this process easy and as stress free as it could be, I would highly recommend them to anyone!"
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