Wisconsin law defines reckless driving as operating a vehicle negligently (even without causing injury to another person), recklessly driving a vehicle on a railroad crossing, or causing bodily harm to another person by negligently operating a vehicle. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation reports that in 2016—the most recent year for which data are available—there were over 129,000 automobile crashes on Wisconsin roads. Those accidents led to nearly 600 deaths and 44,000 injured individuals.
Types of Reckless Driving
Under Wisconsin law, a person acts negligently when he or she fails to exercise what is called ordinary care. Ordinary care refers to the care that a reasonable person would employ in similar circumstances. When it comes to driving, there are many behaviors that the law considers negligent and can result in reckless driving, including:
- Excessive speeding: While there’s not an exact definition of “excessive,” the law assumes that a reasonable person would not speed 20 or more miles per hour over the speed limit. High speed crashes invariably result in more property damages and more serious injuries than crashes that occur at lower speeds. The effects can be devastating and cause injuries that may require extensive medical care to diagnose, treat, and recover from.
- Racing: Racing, especially on city streets and in areas with pedestrians, often ends badly. Drivers are likely to lose control or crash into each other or innocent bystanders.
- Joyriding: Stealing cars and then driving fast and dangerously is known as joyriding. Many times, law enforcement gets involved and may embark on high-speed chases that endanger the public.
- Running stop signs and stop lights: Failing to stop at lights and signs is a common cause of car accidents when cars approaching from a side direction collide with the vehicle that failed to observe the stoplight or stop sign.
- Blocking traffic flow: Although blocking traffic almost certainly means a vehicle is stopped, it also creates a dangerous environment for others on the road. Drivers may fail to stop in time and those who do may end up being rear-ended by drivers behind them who cannot.
- Disregarding traffic lanes: Crossing into oncoming traffic poses an extreme risk to drivers in oncoming vehicles. These types of accidents often occur at high speeds, leaving drivers on the other side of the road with little time to react.
- Aggression and road rage: Driving is frustrating, and everyone gets annoyed with other drivers. Taking it to the extreme by driving aggressively—quick stops in front of another car, tailing too closely, or engaging in shouting with other drivers—can quickly rise to the level of recklessness. Aggressive driving puts not only the two vehicles involved in the incident at risk, but also anyone near the crash.
Injured by a Reckless Driver?
If you’ve been injured by a reckless driver, you may face a pile of mounting medical expenses, property damage to your vehicle, and financial insecurity if you’ve had to miss work. Costs quickly add up and may soon exceed the benefit limits of your car or health insurance policies. You don’t have to face it all alone, though. An experienced Wisconsin reckless driving attorney may help you evaluate your case and determine if filing a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages from the negligent party is appropriate in your situation.
Types of Damages in Reckless Driving Lawsuits
The amount and types of damages that plaintiffs in reckless driving cases can recover from the at-fault party in your accident will depend heavily on the facts of your case, but commonly-awarded damage types fit into one of four defined categories recognized under Wisconsin law.
- Economic damages: These damages are intended to provide compensation for those damages that are based on measurable monetary losses. Economic damages include medical costs (both initial, ongoing, therapeutic, and rehabilitative), property damage, and lost wages that you are currently losing as well as those that you expect to lose in the future. You can also seek compensation for services that you previously provided for your family or yourself that you now have to hire someone else to do.
- Non-economic damages: Non-economic damages seek to repay injured plaintiffs for intangible losses that they’ve suffered at the hands of negligent parties. Compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, or loss of consortium are all non-economic damages that courts can award if the situation merits.
- Punitive damages: Courts rarely award punitive damages. They are reserved for cases in which the negligent party exhibited especially egregious behavior, and they are intended to punish the at-fault party, rather than compensate the victim. Wisconsin law caps punitive damages at twice the sum of economic and non-economic damages or $200,000, whichever is greater.
If you were injured in a reckless driving accident, document all of the costs that you incur to prove your economic damages. That just means keeping track of your bills and receipts for all costs associated with your injuries.
Contact a Wisconsin Reckless Driving Attorney
Serious car accidents can result in both physical and financial pain that can feel overwhelming and unbearable. Many individuals wind up facing what feels like insurmountable medical debt end up filing bankruptcy; in fact, it is the most common reason that people choose to file bankruptcy. Missing work or being unable to return to the work that you did before your accident due to new physical and mental impairments can leave you feeling hopeless. You may suffer from conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, fear of being in a car, or debilitating depression.
The law allows you to hold the person who caused your injuries—financial, physical, and mental—accountable for the damage that he or she caused. An experienced car accident lawyer can help you do just that.