Reckless driving is a crime in Florida; meaning, if you are in an accident caused by a reckless driver, that driver is likely to face criminal proceedings. Of course, that’s in addition to your civil claim for damages (that you, as the injured victim, will likely be pursuing against the driver). Victims of reckless driving can pursue injury claims for things like medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, lost earning capacity, and more.
What Is Reckless Driving?
Florida Statute 316.192(1) defines “reckless driving” as driving any vehicle “…in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” The law also provides that if a Florida driver is fleeing the police or any law enforcement officer, then that driver will be found guilt of reckless driving “per se,” meaning that he will be found guilty of the crime even if he was not driving dangerously at the time.
If a driver is convicted of reckless driving in Florida, they can face serious jail time as well as fines. If the driver has seriously hurt someone, they may be imprisoned for committing a felony of the third degree. These are crimes where the injured victim has suffered “serious bodily injury,” which is defined in the law to mean an injury involving “a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.” Florida Statute 316.192(2).
Examples of Reckless Driving
Reckless driving involves a driver carelessly and willfully ignoring that others might be hurt or property might be damaged by how the driver is driving. In order to prove reckless driving caused an accident, and therefore entitling the victim to compensation, the injury victim must be able to prove that the driver breached his or her duty of care to the victim and in doing so, caused the victim harm. The fact that the driver has been charged with reckless driving in criminal court is a fact that the victim can use in his or her injury claim; a conviction of reckless driving is powerful evidence in an injury case.
To obtain a criminal conviction for reckless driving, the burden of proof is higher than it is in a civil negligence case. The prosecutor must be able to prove that the driver had “wanton disregard” for the safety of people or property. This will depend upon the facts of each case. For instance:
1. In a case where a police officer believed a driver was speeding at 50-55 mph in a 35 mph zone, and slowed down as the driver got near to an intersection, the court held that reckless driving had not been shown because there was no evidence of “wanton disregard” to safety. Miller v. State, 636 So. 2d 144 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist. 1994).
2. However, when a police officer saw a vehicle speeding through a residential area at speeds over 80 mph and then slam into a U-turn, the court held that there was cause to arrest the driver for reckless driving — especially with the police officer’s testimony that when he pulled the driver over, the driver didn’t seem to understand how dangerous he had been driving and how serious the risk was of hurting someone or something. State v. Orozco, 607 So. 2d 464 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 3d Dist. 1992).
Claims Against the Reckless Driver
Unfortunately, all of us face drivers on the road who have decided to drive however they want on the roadway, no matter how careless or dangerous they might be to others. Reckless and/or careless driving is often times associated with intoxicated drivers. Signs of a reckless driver can include things like:
- Driver running stop sign
- Driver running a red light
- Driver not having headlights on (after dusk)
- Driver passing another car in a risky manner
- Driver illegally passing on the shoulder
- Driver illegally passing a school bus
- Driver speeding – especially at speeds over 20 mph above the limit
- Road racing between drivers of two or more cars.
What Should You Do?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed in an accident, is to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.