Reckless conduct is rather difficult to define, but we know it when we see it. If you are injured in south Florida by a reckless person – a reckless driver, for example – what is your legal recourse? Can you be compensated? If so, for how much? And if you’ve been injured by recklessness, how long do you have to take action? Keep reading, and you’ll learn what everyone in Florida needs to know about recklessness and its consequences.

“Reckless” behavior is more serious than “negligent” behavior, because someone who behaves recklessly is knowingly taking a risk that may harm others. However, for a person to be found guilty of reckless behavior, it does not matter what the reckless person was actually thinking. When someone’s behavior differs dangerously from the way a reasonable person would act, it is recklessness.

WHAT ARE THE LEGAL IMPLICATIONS OF RECKLESS CONDUCT?

Depending on its nature, reckless behavior may lead to criminal prosecution. Reckless driving, for example, is a misdemeanor in Florida, and convicted offenders can serve up to ninety days in jail and be fined up to $500.00. If a reckless driver injures someone in our state, the charge can be prosecuted as a felony. Florida law defines reckless driving as driving with wanton or willful disregard for the safety of others.

A reckless driver can also land in civil court – on the wrong end of a personal injury lawsuit. In civil lawsuits, reckless conduct that causes injuries can make a driver liable for a victim’s medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, and all related damages and losses. Injury victims – called “plaintiffs” in civil cases – are sometimes also awarded “punitive” damages intended to punish recklessness and to deter future reckless behavior.

What are the behaviors that constitute reckless driving in the state of Florida? Any driving that endangers yourself and your passengers, other drivers and their passengers, or pedestrians could be deemed reckless. Failure to yield, speeding, street racing, tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, and slamming on your brakes suddenly could all be considered examples of reckless driving.

WHEN MAY A FLORIDA INJURY VICTIM FILE A PERSONAL INJURY LAWSUIT?

Because this is a “no-fault” auto insurance state, if you are injured by a reckless driver here in south Florida, you may or may not be able to seek compensation from that driver for your injuries with a personal injury lawsuit. It depends on the extent of your injuries, the circumstances of the accident, your own auto insurance coverage, and the reckless driver’s coverage.

By law, every Florida driver must carry a minimum of $10,000 in property damage liability coverage and a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection (or “PIP”) coverage. The no-fault system is supposed to protect policyholders who are injured in traffic collisions, without regard to which driver was at fault in any particular collision.

HOW DOES “PIP” INSURANCE WORK IN FLORIDA?

Thus, if you are injured in a Florida traffic crash, your PIP coverage kicks in automatically to pay for your first $10,000 of medical bills and lost income. Under the no-fault system, the injured victim of a reckless driver cannot bring a legal action unless the victim has sustained what the law calls “serious injury.”

Thus, injury victims in Florida may sue reckless motorists for personal injuries only if their damages exceed $10,000 and only if their injuries are considered permanent, or if permanent or substantial scarring or disfigurement occurred, or if an accident victim has lost an important bodily function. If you or someone you love sustains this kind of injury due to another driver’s recklessness, $10,000 will not go far.

Therefore, in most cases, catastrophic injury victims in this state will have to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit with help from an experienced West Palm Beach personal injury lawyer. Your attorney can probably determine quite quickly if your injuries qualify you to bring a personal injury lawsuit.

IS THERE A TIME LIMIT FOR TAKING LEGAL ACTION?

Injured victims also need to know that there is a four-year time limit in Florida– a statute of limitations – for injury and damage claims generated by traffic accidents in this state. Of course, if you have been seriously injured by a reckless driver, you should not wait four years – or even four weeks – to put your case in the hands of an experienced West Palm Beach personal injury lawyer.

Although catastrophic injury victims in Florida are presumably “entitled” by the law to compensation for their injuries, obtaining that compensation is never easy. A victim must prove that he or she was injured – in a particular collision and by a particular reckless driver – by filing a personal injury lawsuit with the advice and help of a good personal injury lawyer.

Of course, any legal procedure will take some time, and you will need to help your personal injury lawyer and follow his or her suggestions, recommendations, and instructions. Nevertheless, when a reckless driver injures someone in Florida, the injury victim has a good chance of prevailing with a personal injury lawsuit.

Why? Because unlike mere negligent driving, reckless driving is usually observable to witnesses, and it often leaves physical evidence. Moreover, a reckless driver is more likely than a negligent driver to face criminal charges. A motorist’s criminal conviction on a negligent driving charge, for example, is a powerfully persuasive piece of evidence in a personal injury case.

WHY SHOULDN’T INJURY VICTIMS ACCEPT QUICK SETTLEMENTS?

You must contact your auto insurance company promptly to report an accident, but when your injury or injuries are severe, don’t make any recorded or written statement to the company or sign any insurance documents. Don’t accept a quick settlement, either. You might be settling for an amount that’s far less than your damages are worth, and if you settle quickly – and without an attorney’s advice – you will lose the right to take any further legal action.

Instead, take your case at once to a trustworthy south Florida personal injury lawyer, and let your lawyer – a trained and experienced negotiator – handle any negotiations with the insurance company on your behalf. Personal injury lawyers routinely negotiate with insurance companies. They know what to expect, and they know how to prevail.

Most personal injury cases in the state of Florida are settled out of court, but when an insurance company fails to make a reasonable settlement offer to an injury victim, your attorney will take the case to trial and use every available legal tool to win the compensation you need – and the justice you deserve.