How Can I Seek Compensation for Injuries Caused by a Reckless Driver?

Georgia car accidents caused by reckless drivers can be worth more than other injury claims. Find out more in this guide written by our accident and injury legal team.

Key Points:

  • In Georgia, any person who drives in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property may be considered a reckless driver under O.C.G.A. 40-6-390.
  • Reckless driving is considered more serious than simple negligence, meaning you may be entitled to recover punitive damages in your Georgia personal injury car accident case.
  • Your injury claim may be worth more if the negligent driver acted dangerously or recklessly before or when he or she crashed into you.

In the State of Georgia an at-fault driver who hits and injures you while driving recklessly or dangerously may owe far more in damages than another driver who simply made a negligent mistake.

Most car accident injuries happen when an at-fault driver makes an error such as running a traffic light or stop sign or causing a rear-end collision. However, violating traffic laws or even causing a crash does not automatically mean that a person is guilty of reckless driving.

Why are Georgia Reckless Driving Car Accidents Worth More Money?

Under Georgia law, “[a]ny person who drives any vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property commits the offense of reckless driving.” O.C.G.A. § 40-6-390. For example a driver may be considered reckless if they are drunk or DUI, are racing or weaving in and out of traffic, aggressively tailgating, passing on the shoulder of the road or driving at a very high speed.

In cases involving reckless driving, injury victims on their own or with the help of a Georgia car accident lawyer may be able to recover additional or extra damages, known as punitive damages. Injury cases involving reckless driving have a higher settlement value. In cases of reckless or dangerous driving, you may recover not only all of your medical bills, lost earnings, property damage and pain and suffering, you may also recover additional punitive damages.

What Does The State of Georgia Consider to be Reckless Driving?

In Georgia, there are many types of traffic offenses, but a reckless driving violation is considered more serious—a criminal charge. Whether a violation rises to the level of reckless driving depends on various factors, such as severity of the offense, road conditions, presence of other drivers or pedestrians, or time of day.

Reckless driving is generally considered to be intentionally driving in a manner that is dangerous to others or in disregard of public safety. Many reckless driving cases involve the following:

Excessively Speeding—When an at-fault driver is far above the speed limit or speeding in a residential, school, or construction zone, this may be reckless driving. There is no specific number or threshold for determining whether speeding is elevated to reckless driving, It often depends on the circumstances. For example, a driver could be charged with reckless driving for traveling 30 mph over the speed limit in a residential area or 100 mph on the interstate. If people are present, such as construction workers or pedestrians, this is far more likely to be reckless driving.

Street Racing—Under Georgia law, it is illegal to engage in street racing or drag racing, both on public roads and private property. Street racers are often charged with reckless driving as well because of the inherently dangerous nature of the activity.

Driving in an emergency lane or shoulder—Those who drive in emergency lanes or on the shoulder of the road are more likely to cause accidents because other drivers, who aren’t expecting cars to pass in those areas, may hit them. In addition, police and other first responders may be blocked or unable to reach those in need of emergency help when people use those lanes for passing. Because of these dangers, you may be charged with reckless driving if you drive in an emergency lane or shoulder.

Weaving or switching lanes rapidly—Weaving, or darting in and out of lanes quickly, may be considered reckless driving if it puts others in danger. When drivers engage in this activity at fast speeds, in heavy traffic, or without using turn signals, they are more likely to be charged with reckless driving.

Failing to obey traffic signs or signals—Running a stop sign or red light, or otherwise failing to obey traffic signals, is a common violation. However, when drivers fail to obey traffic signals in busy intersections or fly through a stop sign without checking for approaching cars, they may also be charged with reckless driving.

Failing to yield to cars or pedestrians—Failing to yield to cars or pedestrians can easily cause serious or even deadly accidents. If oncoming cars are not close by or pedestrians are not in the crosswalk, you may not be charged with reckless driving, but this behavior is typically considered risky by police officers.

Distracted driving—Talking on the phone, texting, or engaging in other activities while driving can be considered reckless driving because those distractions may take the driver’s eyes off the road or hands off the wheel or make them unable to concentrate.

Tailgating — A person can be guilty of reckless driving for following too closely behind another vehicle. This is especially true when tailgating at high-speed or in bad weather or areas crowded with construction workers, emergency vehicles or pedestrians.

DUI—Even though driving under the influence is a separate charge in Georgia, a person charged with DUI is also engaged in reckless driving. Because drinking alcohol or using drugs can impair your ability to operate a vehicle safely, driving drunk is considered reckless behavior that puts others at risk. Additionally, someone who has been drinking can still be charged with reckless driving even if their blood alcohol level is below the legal limit (.08 percent).

Aggressive Driving–Although reckless and aggressive driving behaviors may be similar, they are treated differently under Georgia law. Reckless driving is governed by O.C.G.A. § 40-6-390, which states that a person may be convicted if their actions disregard the safety of others.

Aggressive driving, is governed by O.C.G.A. § 40-6-397, which states: A person commits the offense of aggressive driving when he or she operates any motor vehicle with the intent to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another person, including without limitation violating Code Section 40-6-42 [overtaking or passing], 40-6-48 [improper lane change or usage], 40-6-49 [following too closely], 40-6-123 [failing to signal], 40-6-184 [driving too slowly], 40-6-312 [lane usage by motorcycles], or 40-6-390 [reckless driving] with such intent.

The key part of this section is the driver’s intent. While behaviors such as weaving, tailgating, or cutting others off may also be considered reckless, if the driver is doing those things specifically to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure, or obstruct someone else they may be charged with aggressive driving.

A driver can be charged with both reckless driving and aggressive driving if their behavior falls into both categories. Also, while both offenses are serious traffic violations, the penalties for aggressive driving are more severe.

If convicted of aggressive driving, you’re guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor, which means you could face a fine up to $5,000, a jail term of up to 12 months, or both. In addition, an aggressive driving conviction adds more points to your license, which could lead to a suspension (for drivers under 21, an aggressive driving conviction results in a 6-month suspension).

What is the Difference Between Negligent and Reckless Driving?

A driver who negligently causes an accident usually does so by driving carelessly and making a mistake. Negligence under Georgia law is considered to be a failure to use a the degree of care that an “ordinarily prudent person” would use under the circumstances. O.C.G.A. 51-1-2. For example, failing to see a stop sign because a driver was daydreaming would usually be simple negligence.

Negligence can also happen “as a matter of law,” under a legal concept known as negligence per se. When a driver violates a certain statute or law, such as speeding under O.C.G.A. 40-6-180 or driving too fast for conditions under 40-6-181; commits a failure to yield under O.C.G.A. 40-6-73; engages in an improper turn or lane change under O.C.G.A. 40-6-123 or O.C.G.A. 40-6-48; is guilty of following too closely under O.C.G.A. 40-6-49; or does not maintain their lane under O.C.G.A. 40-6-20, this can be considered negligence per se.

Reckless driving, on the other hand, involves more dangerous behavior. For example, drinking and driving or texting while driving both involve intentional choices to do something that places the public and other motorists at risk of injury. Other examples include racing, swerving and rapid lane changes, or speeding through a school zone. Reckless driving, much like hit and run collisions or leaving the scene of an accident, can mean the victim is entitled to recover exemplary or punitive damages.

Can Reckless Driving Accidents Result in More Compensation?

Yes. In many cases a Georgia car accident lawyer can recover more compensation for clients injured by a reckless driver. This is because dangerous activities such as texting while driving, weaving through traffic, or racing are more likely to cause accidents and the State of Georgia allows such driving to be punished financially.

In most ‘regular’ car accident cases, compensation is based solely on a claim of negligence. To prove your claim, you or your attorney must show that the other party drove in a negligent manner that caused the crash, and you were injured as a result. If the other driver was charged with reckless driving at the accident scene, that is strong evidence indicating they were likely at fault.

Assuming you can prove your negligence claim, the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier will usually pay your economic costs, such as medical bills, vehicle damage, and lost income, and your noneconomic costs, such as pain and suffering and diminished quality of life, up to the liability policy limit. When the other driver’s actions were not only negligent but reckless, however, you may be able to recover more compensation in the form of punitive damages.

For a jury to award punitive damages in Georgia, the plaintiff must prove more than mere negligence. Rather, punitive damages may be awarded if the at-fault driver exhibited “willful misconduct, fraud, wantonness, malice, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences.” O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(b). Unlike compensatory damages, which are awarded to make the victim whole, punitive damages are imposed to punish and deter the person who caused the accident.

Under Georgia law, reckless driving meets this standard, so you may have a claim for both compensatory and punitive damages. In Georgia, punitive damages are often capped at $250,000 in claims not involving DUI or an intentional act.

Are Punitive Damages From Reckless Driving Excluded from Insurance?

Unless the at-fault driver’s liability policy specifically excludes coverage for punitive damages, you or your attorney can make a settlement demand for both compensatory and punitive damages up to the policy limit.

If the at-fault driver’s policy contains such an exclusion, you and your attorney can recover compensatory damages under the insurance policy, but may have to recover punitive damages from the reckless driver’s personal assets.

I was injured in a hit-and-run accident. What can I do if the other driver was never found? 

If the at-fault driver who hit your vehicle fled the scene and was never found, you may still be able to recover for any injuries you sustained under your own insurance coverage. Personal injury protection coverage and uninsured motorist coverage will likely cover your injuries and property damage in these cases. Be sure to speak with an attorney and your insurer to determine whether you have such coverage.  

How Hiring an Experienced Lawyer Can Help You Receive More after a Reckless Driving Accident

Without an experienced car accident attorney handling your claim, you risk not receiving the maximum amount of compensation you deserve. Insurance companies know that you have only a small chance of beating them or their team of insurance defense lawyers in Court without an experienced car accident lawyer on your side. Therefore, the adjuster is far less likely to offer you what your case is worth or to agree to pay punitive damages without the threat of losing in Court.

Our lawyers have represented reckless driving car accident victims since 1993 and know how to build a strong claim to recover accident costs and punitive damages. We can help ensure that the insurance adjuster takes your case seriously and pays the settlement you deserve.

Our lawyers go to work immediately to investigate the accident and gather all the evidence necessary to prove reckless driving. Call The Millar Law Firm today at (770) 400-0000 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

- D. Lo
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