Can I Recover Compensation If I Was Injured By a Reckless Driver?
Drivers owe a duty of care to all others on the road, and they must act as any reasonable driver should under the circumstances. This includes not driving recklessly. However, reckless driving is a problem that has gotten far worse in society. If you suffered injuries due to a reckless driver, you can hold them accountable. They should have to pay for your accident injuries that are, on average, more serious than those in a usual car crash.
Reckless Driving Factored In Several High-Profile Recent Crashes
A renewed focus on reckless driving in Las Vegas began after a January 2022 tragedy that took the lives of nine people. A reckless driver was allegedly clocked at 103 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone before running a red light and striking a minivan. All people in both of the vehicles involved died in the crash. In this case, lax enforcement of reckless driving laws allegedly allowed the driver to keep his license. The traffic court reduced previous serious charges against him. In other cases, his convictions did not make it to the DMV.
In another high-profile case, a star football player on the Las Vegas Raiders struck another car and killed a driver. At the time of the accident, his blood alcohol content was allegedly double the legal limit, and he was allegedly driving at 156 miles per hour. Police officers pulled over another Raiders player while allegedly driving at 110 miles per hour on a highway.
Excessive Speeding Recently Increased Dramatically
Overall, tickets for driving over 100 miles per hour increased by 26 percent in Nevada in the past two years. This is part of a disturbing pattern that dates back a decade. They just represent the instances in which law enforcement caught the driver. Plenty of other incidents go undetected or unpunished. Reckless driving crashes are extremely violent events when the driver is speeding excessively. In one case, a crash involving a vehicle traveling at 145 miles per hour split a moped driver in half, killing them instantly.
Why Las Vegas Is a Hotbed Of Reckless Driving
Unfortunately, Las Vegas is one of the worst areas in the country as far as reckless driving is concerned. First, the city has crowds of tourists each year who come to Las Vegas with an attitude of “anything goes.” This attitude shows up in their driving if they are in town in their vehicle or rent a car. They are most focused on maximizing their trip and may act without regard to anyone else’s safety.
While not everyone drives under the influence of alcohol in Las Vegas, many motorists have consumed one or more drinks before getting behind the wheel. Even if the driver is not drunk, any amount of alcohol can loosen inhibitions and cause people to act more recklessly. Drivers may speed or act aggressively with a blood alcohol content less than the legal limit.
Las Vegas streets and highways lend themselves to reckless driving. Roads in the Valley area are usually wide and straight, allowing drivers to speed far more than in other urban areas. In addition, traffic outside the Strip area is not as heavy, giving drivers more room to be reckless. The lower traffic volumes during COVID-19 have also given more freedom to drive dangerously. Police officers have recently been less likely to pull motorists over for reckless driving out of fear of contracting COVID-19.
Drag Racing Has Increased In The Las Vegas Area
In addition, residents reported an increase in drag racing in the area. The lesser traffic and a new spirit of recklessness during the COVID-19 pandemic have caused drag racing to spiral out of control in the Las Vegas area.
Some motorists are even engaging in intersection takeovers, driving in circles to prevent anyone else from crossing the intersection. Even though reckless driving laws specifically prohibit street racing, they still did not stop people from engaging in this selfish and extremely dangerous practice.
Luxury cars are found more frequently in Las Vegas in light of the economic boom that the Valley is experiencing. Vehicles have more power, and reckless drivers want to see the full engine capacity of these cars. When power vehicles can travel up to 160 miles per hour, some drivers foolishly want to experience it instead of just knowing that their car has that capacity.
Local Police Have Formed a Special Enforcement Unit
Las Vegas police have formed a special unit to deal with the recent surge in reckless driving. This team is called RAID, which stands for “Racing Apprehension and Intervention Detail team.”
The RAID team makes arrests, and it can tow cars involved in reckless driving. It remains to be seen whether this new law enforcement effort will make a difference. For too long, reckless drivers on Las Vegas streets got away with their dangerous conduct behind the wheel when officers might only cite a driver after a crash that seriously injured someone.
Reckless driving is not just a problem in Nevada. Localities across the country have reported a surge in this extremely dangerous behavior. COVID-19 has led to the breakdown of many societal attitudes and caused an overall increase in risky actions. Traffic fatalities are skyrocketing, as accidents are far more serious because of reckless driving. Even with lower traffic volumes on the road, pedestrian fatalities rates per mile driven rose sharply.
Nevada Reckless Driving Laws & Penalties
In Nevada, the reckless driving law makes it illegal to “drive a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property on a highway or premises to which the public has access.” The same law also forbids street racing, which is a serious problem in the Las Vegas area recently.
Reckless driving is considered a misdemeanor. Even the first offense can be punishable with a jail sentence of up to six months (although that seldom happens in practice). However, the crime increases to a felony if there is serious bodily injury. Then, there is a potential jail sentence between one to six years if convicted.
Examples Of Reckless Driving
Reckless driving can include:
- Speeding excessively over the posted limits
- Aggressively weaving in and out of traffic
- Tailgating too close to another vehicle in an aggressive manner
- Running stop signs and red lights
- Crossing the shoulder or median when driving
- Failing to pull over when directed by a law enforcement officer
Reckless driving injuries will likely be far worse than those in a case where a driver was negligent. The driver who gets hit has no warning and no way to take any evasive maneuver. When crashes happen at high speed, the injuries will be far more severe, even when the driver gets hit while traveling at the speed limit. These crashes have a far higher fatality rate.
A Reckless Driving Lawsuit Is Not the Same As a Criminal Prosecution
Reckless driving is always a criminal case. You do not necessarily need the driver to receive a criminal conviction.
The different standards of proof necessary in each type of case include:
- In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
- In a civil case, the plaintiff must prove legal responsibility by a preponderance of the evidence.
The standard of proof in a civil case is lower. Thus, even if the driver receives an acquittal for the criminal charge, you may still recover financial compensation for your injuries. If the driver pleads guilty in the reckless driving criminal case, it can be evidence in your civil case.
Damages In a Reckless Driving Case
In any reckless driving case, you may seek compensation for:
- Lost income
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
If your loved one died in a reckless driving accident, your family can file a wrongful death claim. Then you can recover for the damages you suffered when your loved one died.
Wrongful death damages include:
- Lost wages
- Your family’s trauma and grief from the accident
- The loss of your family member’s love, support, and guidance
- The loss of an intimate relationship with a spouse
Punitive damages are very rare in any personal injury action. Only a jury can award punitive damages, and they rarely do it in a car accident case.
In addition, you cannot receive punitive damages in a wrongful death case. Reckless driving cases are the rare instance in which a jury may consider punitive damages, given their intent of penalizing someone for actions that severely depart from the norm. If you or a loved one suffered injuries because of a driver traveling well above the speed limit, you might seek punitive damages.
You May Get Punitive Damages
However, an insurance company will not pay punitive damages as part of your settlement. In addition, the average driver may not have the money to pay large punitive damages.
Your best chance to receive punitive damages is when the responsible driver was working for a company when the accident happened. Then, their employer must pay for their employee’s actions. The company may have the insurance coverage or the assets to pay the full amount of the verdict.
Insurance Companies Try Not To Pay You What You Deserve
You might think that an insurance company will have every incentive to settle a reckless driving case. After all, as long as you can prove what the reckless driver did, liability should not be much of an issue.
However, an insurance company will still use every trick possible to make things hard for you. They know that you may not want to take your case to court because it can add significant time. Even when liability is not in doubt, an insurance company can still play games when it comes to the amount of your compensation.
- Try to find a way to blame you in part for your injuries to reduce the amount that they have to play (for example, arguing that your injuries were worse because you were not wearing a seatbelt or were speeding yourself)
- Understate the extent of your injury and challenge your medical diagnosis
- Apply a lower inflation estimate when it comes to your future compensation
- Claim that you can work when you cannot work at all
How An Attorney Can Help Your Reckless Driving Case
You still need an experienced attorney, even when you do not need to do as much work to prove liability. Getting a fair and reasonable settlement takes work on its own. There is almost no such thing as an easy car accident case. Even when what happened was clear, the battle shifts to the compensation aspect of your claim. Here, legal help is as important as when you need evidence to show who caused the accident.
If you are filing an insurance claim, you will need to know how much in damages to seek. Then, you must evaluate any settlement offer to see if it comes anywhere close to that number. If it does not, you should reject the settlement offer and continue negotiating. If you reach the end of the line in negotiations, or if the insurance company is being unreasonable, you can file a lawsuit. You always have the right to file a lawsuit without even going through the claims process.
Whether or not another driver received a reckless driving conviction, the right attorney can prove recklessness and liability for your accident and injuries. Focus on your physical recovery, including keeping up with all medical treatment, while your attorney focuses on your legal and financial recovery. That’s the best way to hold reckless drivers accountable for the harm they cause.