Reckless driving in a residential area can result in devastating injuries for people caught in the driver’s path. Reckless driving is more serious than simple careless driving. Often, it comes with criminal charges for the reckless driver. People injured by a reckless driver should call California car accident attorney Travis G. Black, who was formerly in the insurance and law enforcement industries. He can put his insights about how those industries are run to work for you.
Reckless Driving in Residential Areas
Under California Vehicle Code section 23103, reckless driving involves driving with a willful or wanton disregard for the property or safety of others. While a person can be charged with reckless driving anywhere, the consequences of reckless driving in a residential area can be particularly serious, not only for drivers in other vehicles but also for pedestrians — people walking their dogs and children playing near or on the street. Reckless driving could include extreme speeding, drag racing, tailgating, drinking and driving, and actions driven by road rage. In order to be considered reckless rather than negligent, the driver needs to have made a conscious decision to drive unsafely, and there must be a significant degree of risk attached to their driving.
A reckless driver may be cited by the police and may face criminal charges. In that case, it can be easier to recover damages. The criminal case is distinct from the civil case. However, when there has been a citation for reckless driving, it may be possible to recover compensation on the basis of negligence per se. Negligence per se can be an easier way to recover damages than ordinary negligence because the plaintiff often does not need to establish what the standard of care was or that the defendant breached it through their actions. Instead, the standard of care is defined under the statute, and the citation or criminal charge can be used to establish that there was a breach.
However, you can prevail in a civil personal injury lawsuit even if no criminal charges are brought. The burden of proof is lighter in civil cases than in criminal cases. In the personal injury lawsuit, you will likely need to show that there was a duty to drive safely, there was a breach of duty, and there was causation and actual damages. Moreover, depending on the circumstances, such as if road rage was involved, you may also have a basis to sue for assault and battery, which are intentional torts.
An experienced Folsom car accident lawyer may be able to recover damages such as emergency care bills, the medical costs of treatment over time, rehabilitation, lost earning capacity, lost income, household services, lost enjoyment of activities, mental anguish, and pain and suffering. The damages are intended to put you back into the position in which you would have been had you not encountered the reckless driver.
When reckless driving is a result of drunk driving, it may also be possible to recover punitive damages, which are meant to deter future similar actions and punish the defendant. Punitive damages may be recovered when somebody does not have an intent to cause harm but intentionally performs an act so unreasonable and dangerous — like drunk driving — that they should know that it is highly probable that harm will result.
How much you can recover in punitive damages depends on the circumstances of the reckless driving and what would truly punish the defendant. Recovering punitive damages can be made more complicated by the fact that car insurance policies exclude intentional conduct, so the insurer does not have an obligation to pay these damages. However, the presence of a punitive damages claim can create a tactical advantage for a plaintiff because it puts the defendant driver’s personal assets and property at stake, and the insurer has an obligation to protect the driver from exposure.