A driver who engages in reckless driving and causes an accident can be held responsible for damages the accident caused, including medical expenses and repairing or replacing damaged or destroyed property. Depending on several circumstances, including the size of the vehicles involved, the speed of both vehicles, and other factors, injuries could range from minor cuts and bruises to catastrophic injuries. If the reckless driver is a commercial truck driver, your case could be more complicated as more than the driver could share in the liability for damages.
- What Is Reckless Driving?
- How a New Orleans Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
- How Long Do I Have to File a Claim Against a Reckless Driver in New Orleans?
- Injuries You Could Sustain in a Reckless Driving Accident
- What to Do After a Reckless Driving Wreck
- Do I Have to Go to Court?
- How to Pay Expenses While Waiting for a Settlement Or Trial Award
- How Much Compensation Can I Recover?
What Is Reckless Driving?
When a driver puts others’ lives in jeopardy by driving dangerously, the police could charge the driver with reckless driving. Section 58 of the Louisiana Statutes states that anyone on the road must drive “in a careful and prudent manner.” Failure to drive as such constitutes reckless driving or “careless operation.”
The police might charge a reckless driver with a criminal offense. However, to recover damages, you must negotiate a settlement with the driver’s insurance company or sue the driver in civil court.
Reckless driving could include:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, legal and illegal prescription drugs, and other illicit substances.
- Driving while fatigued. When a driver is tired, they recover after a short nap. If a driver is fatigued, they are always tired, even after getting a good night’s sleep. A fatigued driver could nod off at any time, even after they just woke up.
- Driving while distracted, including texting, talking on the phone, eating, reading, fiddling with the stereo, or even talking to others in the vehicle.
- Speeding, including excessive speeding and evading arrest.
- Drag racing.
- Tailgating/following too closely.
- Frequently changing lanes.
- Weaving in and out of traffic, especially at a high rate of speed—whether on the highway or surface roads.
- Ignoring traffic control signals.
How a New Orleans Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
Even if your injuries seem minor, you should always have a car accident lawyer help you with your case. The attorney could investigate the case, ensure you recover the compensation you deserve, and better handle future losses because of catastrophic injuries.
Insurance companies are in business to make money. Thus, they might do anything to deny your claim, including reassigning the blame to you. If they cannot find a way to deny your claim, they may offer you the least amount it will take to make you go away. Most people who represent themselves often take the insurance company’s first offer and run.
However, if your injuries are severe or catastrophic, you might not recover enough compensation to cover medical expenses if you settle on your own. Catastrophic injuries usually lead to long-term or permanent disabilities, most of which require ongoing medical attention and preclude you from working.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim Against a Reckless Driver in New Orleans?
If you sustain injuries in a reckless driving accident in New Orleans, you have one year to file a lawsuit against the reckless driver. This year flies by when you have to deal with other things related to the accident. Most people prefer to settle first. It could take some time to settle, especially if you need to wait on doctors’ reports regarding injuries that could lead to long-term or permanent disabilities. It is best to contact a personal injury car accident lawyer as soon as possible, even if you are still in the hospital recovering from the wreck.
Injuries You Could Sustain in a Reckless Driving Accident
The injuries you might sustain in a reckless driving accident might include:
- Bumps, bruises, cuts, scrapes, and scratches
- Road rash.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Internal injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Crushed bones.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled and torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Chemical and thermal burns.
- Disfigurement and excessive scarring.
- Wrongful death.
In addition to these injuries, you could sustain secondary injuries, such as infections, especially if you have underlying conditions that affect your immune system. Open wounds from the accident or surgeries after the accident could become infected. The at-fault driver is responsible for the extra medical attention required for any secondary injuries or exacerbated preexisting conditions as you would not have suffered the pain and extra medical attention if not for the driver’s actions.
What to Do After a Reckless Driving Wreck
After a New Orleans reckless driving accident, you should take certain steps if you can. These actions can help document your case and give you a higher chance of recovering the compensation you deserve.
If you feel that you can move without causing additional injury to yourself:
- Contact first responders.
- Check others involved in the wreck, but only if it is safe to do so. If the driver or passengers in the vehicle that hit you seem aggressive, it is better to keep your distance.
- Obtain the driver’s license, contact, and insurance information if it is safe to do so. If not, the police will obtain that information.
- Obtain contact information from any witnesses. You could also ask each witness what they saw. Be sure to take notes. The police will also obtain this information, but they could remember more if they repeat what they saw more than once.
- Take photos of the wreck. Get pictures from all angles. Including damage to the road and nearby property.
- Allow the emergency medical technicians to check you over, even if you believe your injuries are minor. This starts the paper trail for any injuries that might manifest later.
- Give the police your version of what happened. Take your time relaying the events leading up to and during the crash, so you do not leave out important facts.
- When the police release you from the accident scene, immediately seek medical attention. If you wait too long, the defendant could claim that you were not really injured. Tell the nurses and doctors that you were in an accident and need a complete checkup.
- Pay attention to how you feel over the following days and weeks. Some injuries manifest days or even weeks later. As soon as you notice something new, seek medical attention. If you do not want to go to the emergency room, document the date you felt the pain, when you contacted your doctor for an appointment, and the contents of the phone call with your doctor.
- Be sure to complete all of the recommended treatments and therapies. If you stop early because you feel better, you give the defendant a reason to doubt the seriousness of your injuries.
- Contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible.
Things You Should Not Do
After the accident, it is better that you do not discuss it with anyone. You never know if the person you are talking to knows the defendant or if the defendant’s attorney will call that person to the stand to testify against you.
Additionally, do not discuss the accident on social media. Insurance adjusters often look through your social media pages to find information to use against you. If the person who caused the accident is on your social media pages, do not communicate with them for any reason.
Do I Have to Go to Court?
Not necessarily. Your attorney can help you through settlement negotiations with the other driver’s insurance company. If the insurance company offers a fair and reasonable settlement and you accept the settlement, your case is finished as soon as everyone signs the agreement.
However, if the driver is underinsured or does not have insurance, you might have to sue the driver personally. In this case, you would go to court.
If the insurance company refuses a fair and reasonable settlement, you could end negotiations and file a lawsuit. The insurance company must respond to the lawsuit. It could also ask you to reopen settlement negotiations at any point before the trial. You can choose to reenter settlement negotiations or continue with trial prep.
How to Pay Expenses While Waiting for a Settlement Or Trial Award
While waiting for a settlement or a trial award, you might be out of work if your injuries are severe enough. Your biggest worry is how to put food on the table for your family and continue paying the mortgage, plus medical bills.
You can “borrow” from your vehicle and health insurance companies to cover medical expenses and lost wages. You pay the insurance companies back when you receive the settlement or trial award. When the attorney receives the check from the at-fault driver’s insurance, they pay any outstanding medical bills, reimburse your insurance companies, take their fees and costs, and then write a check to you for the balance. This way, you are caught up on medical expenses, and doctors and hospitals will not report the paid amounts to the credit reporting agencies.
How Much Compensation Can I Recover?
The amount the at-fault driver or their insurance company pays depends on several factors, including the extent of your injuries. It also depends on the actions and inactions of the at-fault driver. You could receive compensatory and punitive damages.
The court could order the defendant to pay two types of compensatory damages: Economic and Non-Economic Damages. Generally, people recover non-economic damages if doctors expect their injuries to cause long-term or permanent disabilities.
Those entitled to recover damages often recover some form of economic damages, which have a monetary value, including:
- Past and future medical expenses. Medical expenses could include doctor’s appointments, surgeries, ambulatory aids, medical accessories, hand controls for vehicles, home upgrades, including wheelchair ramps, grab bars, and widened doors. The defendant is also responsible for therapy you might need because of the accident, including cognitive therapy, physical therapy, psychological therapy, and occupational therapy.
- Lost earnings from the time of the accident until you settle your case or win a trial award.
- Loss of future earning capacity. Even if you can work in the future but cannot work for the same salary or hourly wage you once did, you might recover partial lost wages.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property.
- Expenses related to wrongful death, including funeral, burial, cremation, and certain probate expenses.
Unlike economic damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value since you cannot put a price on suffering.
Non-economic damages can include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to take medications or use ambulatory aids for the rest of your life.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy time with your family, including family events and outings.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of use of a body part or a bodily function.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, including grocery shopping, house cleaning, lawn maintenance, and home repair and maintenance.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Disfigurement or excessive scarring.
Louisiana allows you to recover punitive damages if the at-fault driver’s actions or inactions were wanton and/or reckless, or if the at-fault driver was driving under the influence. Unlike compensatory damages, which the court orders in an attempt to make you whole again, the court orders a defendant to pay punitive damages as a punishment.
While it is difficult to win a punitive damage award, it may be worth the extra money if you can prove that the defendant’s behavior was grossly negligent or intentional.
Contact a New Orleans car accident attorney for a free case evaluation if you suffered injuries or lost a loved one because of a reckless driver.