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Understanding Your Legal Rights After Injury Due To Reckless Driving


Reckless driving is one of the leading factors in serious traffic accidents and fatalities in Washington State and across the country. Statistics indicate that reckless driving trends have only increased since the start of the pandemic in 2020, with Washington seeing a 10% increase in traffic fatalities in 2021 from the year before. Speeding, impaired driving, and other forms of negligence behind the wheel continue to put all drivers at risk, no matter where they go.

How is Reckless Driving Defined in Washington?

Under the Revised Code of Washington, RCW 46.61.500, reckless driving occurs when a person drives any vehicle in “willful or wanton disregard” for the safety of other people or property. Willful and wanton disregard is a legal turn of phrase that essentially refers to a person having indifference to the effects of their actions – even if they may be harmful or deadly. While reckless driving can take many forms, the Washington Safety Traffic Commission notes a troubling increase in serious and fatal traffic crashes due to alcohol or drug impairment. The most common type of impairment is now “poly-drug” impairment – when a person is under the influence of a combination of alcohol and drugs, or multiple drugs at the same time.

Regardless of impairment levels, any reckless action leading to a crash can lead to the at-fault driver being criminally charged and subject to civil liability. In Washington State, reckless driving is considered to be a gross misdemeanor punishable by a jail term up to 1 year and fines up to $5,000, depending on the circumstances.

A driver charged with reckless driving under Washington State law can face a course of punishment through the criminal justice system with associated penalties. At the same time – regardless of whether they are convicted on the reckless driving charge – they can be sued for damages in a civil personal injury claim.

What Are Your Legal Rights if You’ve Been Injured in a Reckless Driving Collision? 

You’ll want to make sure that your collision is investigated as completely as possible to establish the role that another person’s reckless driving played in your accident. For example, running a red light and causing a collision could often be a misdemeanor or civil infraction,  but if you’re able to show that the driver was under the influence of drugs during the accident, that could show reckless driving and gross negligence. That helps the prosecutor in their criminal case and the plaintiff in a personal injury case.

In order to proceed with a successful personal injury claim,  it helps to have any camera or video evidence, investigative reports, and police reports. When considering a personal injury lawsuit it is important to remember the following:

  • The statute of limitations in Washington State for most types of claims is 3 years from the date of injury. You will need to file your lawsuit in a timely manner.
  • To recover financial compensation, a plaintiff must be able to establish the defendant’s liability. Since most personal injury claims are based on negligence you must be able to satisfy the four legal elements.
  1. The other driver owed a duty of care to the crash victim;
  2. The driver breached their standard of care;
  3. The driver’s wrongful act, negligence, or recklessness contributed to the victim’s injuries and costs;
  4. The plaintiff suffered actual harm in the incident.

Damages in a Washington car crash case generally fall under two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages include medical bills, lost wages due to the accident, costs of rehabilitation and therapy, and other tangible costs that can be calculated based on actual bills.

Non-economic damages are just as important, however, as they include mental anguish, emotional distress, and the pain and suffering that occurs following a traumatic and physically harmful car accident.

Our Seattle Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help You Recover After a Reckless Driving Car Accident 

Going through a car crash is traumatic enough on its own. When it is caused due to the reckless and dangerous actions of another, it can be even harder to comprehend. In these situations, it is important to make your voice heard and take the necessary steps toward fair compensation. The experienced Seattle personal injury attorneys at the Emerald Law Group will help evaluate your case and make the strongest claim possible. To learn more about your legal rights and options, please visit our firm online or call for a free consultation at 206-823-0792.


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