Reckless driving is defined under Arizona law as operating a motor vehicle with “reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property.” When people drive without any thought or care about the consequences of their decisions and actions – getting behind the wheel after drinking, for instance, or racing through a red light – it can cause devastating auto accidents and personal injuries, or even death. If you have been injured in a crash caused by a reckless driver, or if you have lost a loved one in such a crash, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. You should seek help from an experienced car accident lawyer without delay. Get in touch with Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC today. We can explain your legal rights and help you to understand your legal options after being harmed by a reckless driver. Simply call or connect with us online to discuss your case.
What Is Reckless Driving in Arizona?
The phrase, “reckless disregard for the safety of others,” can mean many different things. Examples of reckless driving actions include:
- Driving significantly higher than the posted speed limit
- Driving dangerously fast for traffic, weather or road conditions
- Following too closely (tailgating)
- Disregarding a stop sign or red light
- Driving in the opposing lane (wrong-way driving)
- Knowingly operating a car with faulty or missing equipment
- Trying to pass in a no-passing zone (usually at a curve or hill)
- Failing to stay in one’s lane or making an unsafe lane change
- Racing on public streets or highways.
Reckless driving results from reckless decisions such as driving while impaired by alcohol, medications or illegal drugs. Driving while fatigued or falling asleep at the wheel is another type of reckless choice. Given the dangers of driving while distracted by talking on a cell phone or by texting behind the wheel, those decisions and actions can be considered reckless as well. If the driver who caused your crash committed the crime of reckless driving – it’s a misdemeanor under Arizona law. When a crime causes an injury to another – it can influence your civil claim for damages, as we explain below.
Is Road Rage an Example of Reckless Driving?
Road rage is a serious problem in Arizona and throughout the country. As NBC News reports, federal statistics show road rage accidents have claimed nearly 1,500 lives in the U.S. since 2008. Road rage is different from reckless driving. Road rage is when a driver allows his or her anger to take control and does something to intentionally hurt another driver, pedestrian or bicyclist. Reckless driving, on the other hand, is when a driver acts without regard for others’ safety – but does not necessarily act with the intent to cause harm. Intentionally causing an accident due to road rage – or placing a person in imminent fear of such an accident – is considered a form of assault under Arizona law. It is a felony offense. As with reckless driving, a driver who commits vehicular aggravated assault is negligent per se and can be held liable for the harm that he or she has caused.
Is Reckless Driving a Problem with Arizona Teen Drivers?
Nearly 4,000 drivers ages 18 and younger were involved in crashes that resulted in injuries during one recent year, while 38 were in accidents that resulted in deaths, the Arizona Department of Transportation reports. Unfortunately, due to their lack of maturity and often due to peer pressure, a high percentage of teens engage in reckless driving. Examples include texting while driving or street racing. This behavior can lead to serious crashes. If you or a loved one was harmed in a crash involving a reckless teen driver, you should not let the driver’s age or lack of income deter you from taking legal action. Keep in mind: When you file a car accident claim, you are typically seeking a recovery through the at-fault driver’s liability insurance – not the driver’s personal assets.
What Can You Recover in a Claim Against a Reckless Driver?
Reckless driving accidents can result in serious injuries. As the victim of a reckless driver, you may be facing high medical bills, the inability to work due to your injuries and significant physical pain and mental anguish. In a civil claim against a reckless driver, you can seek compensation for all of your past and future medical expenses, lost income, diminished future earning capacity and pain and suffering. These damages are compensatory. They are intended to make you as close to “whole” as possible after you have been harmed by another person’s wrongful conduct.
Can You Sue a Reckless Driver for Punitive Damages?
In a reckless driving or road rage accident claim, punitive damages typically are sought. These damages serve a different purpose than compensatory damages. The goal is not to make you “whole.” Instead, the goal is to punish the at-fault driver and deter similar conduct. Unlike many other states, Arizona places no cap on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in a personal injury case. To recover punitive damages, you must present “clear and convincing” evidence that the at-fault driver acted with “evil motives” or a “willful or wanton disregard” of the interests of others. As you can see, many types of reckless driving and road rage would fit into this category such as intentionally running a motorist, pedestrian or bicyclist off the road or driving while significantly impaired by alcohol.