​What Is Considered Reckless Driving?

Personal Injury Attorneys Blog

When you see a driver speeding along the highway or an aggressive motorist weaving in and out of traffic, you might think, “What reckless drivers these people are!”

Reckless is one of those words used in everyday conversation but has a specific legal meaning when it comes to tortious and criminal conduct.

When a driver engages in reckless driving, that driver places other motorists, motorcyclists, and others in danger of injury. If someone is injured or property is damaged as a result of the reckless driving, the driver may be held liable for their actions. In such cases, it may be necessary to consult with a car accident lawyer to explore the legal options available to the injured party.

How Virginia Defines Reckless Driving?

The Code of Virginia, Title 46.2, Chapter 8, and Article 7, equates driving recklessly with driving at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.

Other behaviors may constitute reckless driving:

  • Driving a vehicle that is not controllable or that has faulty brakes
  • Passing on a crest or curve in the highway
  • Passing or overtaking a vehicle at a railroad-grade crossing
  • Driving two abreast in a single lane of travel or passing two vehicles driving abreast unless there is a sufficient number of lanes
  • Driving a vehicle where the driver’s view is obstructed

A driver can also commit reckless driving under Virginia law if they drive their vehicle at a speed that is not prudent under the circumstances. Under this definition, it does not matter how much the driver was speeding over the limit or if the driver was speeding at all.

Recklessness Often Depends on the Circumstances

The examples of reckless driving contained within Virginia’s statutes suggest that, in many cases, reckless driving depends on the surrounding circumstances.In the same way that a person’s actions may or may not be careless given the situation in which they find themselves, Virginia’s statutes suggest that, in some cases, the circumstances will dictate whether someone’s driving is reckless.

The Relationship Between Reckless Driving and Car Accident Liability

car accident lawyer in Tappahannock,Virginia’s statutes that define reckless driving are criminal. These statutes prescribe a penalty for individuals who violate them, regardless of whether the offender crashes into another vehicle. These penalties are assessed against the offending driver to punish them for their law violation and deter them and others from committing similar acts.

The purpose of a car crash lawsuit is not to punish the reckless driver but to hold them accountable for the harm they caused you in a wreck. The purpose of your car accident lawyer proving the other driver was reckless is not to subject them to fines and penalties but to show they have a legal obligation to pay you compensation.

Following a car accident, negligence is the key to legal liability. In other words, you must show that the at-fault party engaged in some conduct that was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances.

While your lawyer can meet this burden by proving the driver acted carelessly, it can also be met by showing the driver engaged in reckless driving under the law.

How to Prove Reckless Driving in a Car Accident Case?

Simply alleging that another driver engaged in reckless driving cannot meet your burden of proof in a civil case. You must come forward with evidence or witnesses that show it is more likely than not that the other driver drove recklessly.

Some of the evidence that your car accident lawyer will be looking to use to meet this obligation include the following:

Eyewitness Observers

Individuals who observed the crash or, preferably, the at-fault driver’s behavior immediately before the collision can provide powerful testimony proving recklessness. Impartial witnesses who had a sufficient opportunity to observe the party’s driving and who can describe the driving with concrete words are typically the most credible.

Conversely, if the eyewitnesses in your case did not get a good look at the party’s driving behavior or had eye impairments that made it difficult to see, the court would give their testimony less weight.

The Police’s Accident Report

In cases where there is damage to vehicles or injuries to people, local law enforcement will probably show up on the scene, conduct an investigation, and prepare a report. Part of this investigation will involve diagraming the accident scene and noting the likely cause or causes of the crash.

The officer’s trained impressions and observations in this report can be helpful and persuasive to judges and juries in identifying examples of reckless conduct that led to your crash.

Traffic Cameras and Video Footage

Many communities and private industries have cameras that capture the movement of nearby traffic. The cameras may have caught a reckless driver’s behaviors, and you can retrieve the footage if you and your car accident lawyer take prompt steps to preserve it.

Where the camera footage identifies the at-fault driver and their driving behavior, camera footage can be as persuasive, if not more so, as eyewitness testimony.

Data from the At-Fault Driver’s Car

Computers inside most modern cars record a wealth of data about the vehicle in the moments before a crash. This information includes the car’s speed, whether brakes were applied, and whether the steering wheel was turned to the right or left.

A skilled car accident lawyer and accident reconstructionist can use this data to reconstruct a picture of erratic or reckless driving.

Proving Reckless Driving Can Present Challenges

Edward McNelis - Attorney for Car Accident Cases near Virginia area
Edward McNelis, Personal Injury Lawyer in Virginia area

Even if you observed the at-fault driver engaged in what you believe to be reckless driving, it is not always simple to prove the other driver involved in reckless driving as defined by law. Enlisting the help of a Virginia personal injury lawyer quickly after your car accident can help improve the chances of being able to prove reckless or negligent conduct.

Although Virginia’s statutes provide numerous examples of reckless conduct, at its most basic definition, reckless driving can include any driving behavior that evidences a disregard for the safety of others or their property.