At some time or another, everyone on a Fort Lauderdale roadway has encountered a reckless driver. Reckless driving may be defined as “[o]perating an automobile in a dangerous manner under the circumstances, including speeding (or going too fast for the conditions, even if within the posted speed limit) and other careless and dangerous driving behavior.” Anyone who operates a vehicle in any dangerous manner is putting everyone traveling on Fort Lauderdale roadways, especially motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians at risk.
Reckless driving is defined in broad terms under Florida law: “Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.” Clearly, many driving behaviors you see in the Fort Lauderdale area can fall into this category.
Types of Reckless Driving in Fort Lauderdale
When someone drives with “wanton disregard,” they can be driving in any manner of ways that neglect safety. Reckless driving is more likely to cause death, and it contributes to the more than 200 driving fatalities Broward County has in a normal year. Some common driving behaviors that may be considered reckless include:
- Driving while impaired—People come to Fort Lauderdale to have a good time, which often includes consuming alcohol. Unfortunately, some choose to drive themselves home after a night of drinking. When someone gets behind the wheel of a car after they have had too much to drink or when using any type of drug which impairs their ability to exercise good judgment, slows their reflexes down, or causes distractions, they are driving recklessly.
- Dangerous lane changes—with Fort Lauderdale’s tight traffic, it can be hard enough to not end up in an accident by sticking to your lane and focusing on what’s in front of you. Drivers who change lanes without proper use of signals, cross over solid lines, or take other aggressive lane change actions may be cited for reckless driving. These drivers often cause sideswipe accidents because they are not exercising any care when making a lane change.
- Ignoring traffic signals—Fort Lauderdale roadways have traffic signals and signs as a means of controlling traffic flow and keeping everyone safe. Drivers who fail to yield the right of way, run red lights, or speed up in the interest of making it through an intersection on a yellow light, pose danger to pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and other drivers on the road.
- Speeding—Fort Lauderdale has implemented various features on roadways to slow traffic down. However, excessive speed and, in some cases, street racing remains a common threat to others who are sharing our roadways.
These are just a few of the reckless driving behaviors on our roadways that put us all in jeopardy. If you suffered an injury because of a reckless driver, you should seek guidance from an experienced car accident attorney to determine what legal recourse options you have.
Factors Contributing to Reckless Driving in Fort Lauderdale
Every reckless driver has a reason for driving in a manner that puts others in danger. However, some factors contribute to a higher prevalence of reckless driving. Some of these factors include:
- Heavy tourism—on an annual basis, we get more than 39 million people passing through our community. While many of these visitors are simply waiting on their next flight or preparing for the next leg of their journey, many people step outside the airport or off the cruise ship and head into the city for sightseeing. This may result in more drivers rushing to ensure they are not late for departing flights or cruises. These drivers may, in their hurry, ignore traffic signals or engage in other risky driving behaviors, like speeding.
- Colleges and universities—Fort Lauderdale is home to three large college campuses. This means each of these schools has a student body of more than 18,000 students. Inexperienced drivers are often unaware their behavior could be considered reckless and as a result, they are more likely to speed, tailgate, or drive while impaired, placing themselves and others at significant risk of harm.
- Commuters—On top of the tourist and college scenes, Fort Lauderdale has the high commuter volume of a typical metro. Fort Lauderdale is home to large shopping centers, several office buildings, hotels, and more. Commuters pour into the city every day, many of them anxious to get home or get to work on time. People running behind may become desperate and engage in unsafe maneuvering or speeding in an attempt to get to their destinations sooner, but often leading to the opposite result.
Innocent Victims of Reckless Drivers in Fort Lauderdale
Few of us ever consider leaving our homes and not being able to return home after work, running errands, or attending class because we are hospitalized with injuries due to someone’s reckless driving. Victims range from operators of cars and pickup trucks, motorcycle operators, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Reckless driving can lead to serious injury to anyone. There is little we can do to protect ourselves except to stay alert, but even that will sometimes not be enough. Reckless driving often leads to the following kinds of injuries.
Head and neck injuries
Head and neck injuries are often the result of the initial impact of a vehicle crash. When someone strikes your car from behind, you can be thrust forward forcefully resulting in whiplash, which may cause serious brain and neck damage.
When struck from the side, your head may strike the door or window of the car causing an internal brain bleed or traumatic brain injury (TBI). Any of these types of injuries not only cause serious pain but could take weeks or months to recover from. Some victims never recover fully from TBI.
Broken or crushed bones
Broken bones can take weeks to heal. If you are the victim of any kind of car accident you could suffer broken limbs, ribs, or even more serious breaks, such as your pelvis. Your recovery time will depend on various factors and in some cases, the break may require surgical intervention to repair.
If you suffered a crushed bone as a result of a car accident, your recovery will take time and you may have to undergo physical and occupational therapy to fully recover. Surgical procedures are almost always needed to repair a crushed bone.
Back and spinal cord injuries
The faster a reckless driver is going when they strike you, the higher the likelihood you will be dealing with a back injury. Ruptured or herniated discs, soft tissue damage, fractures, and damage to your spinal cord can occur because of a car accident.
If you have suffered any type of back injury in a reckless driving accident in Fort Lauderdale, you could be facing chronic, lifetime pain. You may be unable to return to normal activities for months following a car accident and, in many cases, you will have to adapt to a new normal existence.
Recovering Damages Following a Fort Lauderdale Reckless Driver Accident
Reckless driving accidents result in immense costs for victims—physically, mentally, and financially. Your car is damaged, you are getting more medical bills than you thought possible, you may have to hire someone to do tasks you normally did around your home, and you are not bringing home the same income you did before the accident.
To deal with all the costs, you are likely to have to file a compensation claim. Before doing so, you should consult with an experienced Fort Lauderdale reckless driving accident lawyer. The lawyer can provide both initial advice and represent you going forward, providing you with an asset against an insurance company that is likely to work to provide you as little financial assistance as possible.
Florida is a no-fault insurance state. While the Florida legislature has recently floated legislation to change this, until the legislation is signed into law, you must deal with a no-fault system. This means your first step—which you most likely took immediately following your discharge from medical care—is notifying your own insurance company about the accident.
The no-fault insurance scheme can create a predicament. Currently, Florida requires drivers to have personal injury protection (PIP) in the amount of $10,000. However, this also means if you have $10,000 in coverage, the most you can likely collect from your insurer is that amount. If your financial losses are greater, your option is to seek relief from the driver who caused your injuries.
Keep in mind, under these rules, your insurer is obligated to pay for the damage to your vehicle if you have collision coverage. Under your PIP coverage, they are obligated to pay medical expenses, lost wages, and death benefits. This means you cannot collect for pain and suffering or any other financial impacts which you suffer as a result of your injuries. That is, you cannot collect for these expenses and impacts unless you proceed to hold the other driver accountable.
Before you can consider filing a personal injury lawsuit against a reckless driver you must be able to establish that your injury is permanent, that you suffered irreparable scarring or disfigurement, or you have lost a bodily function as a result of the accident. There are instances where a lawsuit may also be merited if your financial losses reach a certain level, which your Fort Lauderdale reckless driving accident lawyer can explain to you.
Fort Lauderdale Insurance Adjusters and Your Car Accident Claim
Many assume that if they pay their insurance premium, and always make sure they have the level of coverage mandated by the state, they’ll be covered in an accident. However, when you file a claim in Fort Lauderdale, you may start to feel like your insurance company is resistant to holding up its end of the contract. They instead are holding up their end of the bargain to their shareholders. You, as the customer, are expected to pay your bill on time, but when it’s the insurance company’s turn to pay out, they often delay.
Insurance companies hire insurance adjusters to deal with claimants. No matter how amicable they may seem at the time you are first interviewed following your claim, do not mistake an insurance adjuster’s goal—to make sure your settlement is denied or as low as possible. This is why it is fairly common for victims to get a quick settlement offer. Insurers are betting on two things: first, you may not be fully aware of your rights; and, second, you need money fast because your bills are piling up, and you are still out of work. Victims should avoid accepting the first offer, as it could cost them more in the long run than you think.
What many accident victims do not realize is that, once you accept a settlement offer, your hands are tied. This means any expenses not covered by the settlement amount, although they are a direct result of the reckless driving accident, are no longer the insurer’s responsibility. As part of your settlement, they ask you to free them from future liability. Whether you need additional surgeries, require special tests or prescriptions, or extra weeks of rehab, it will not matter—once you have accepted a settlement, those bills are going to be your sole responsibility.
The days following a Fort Lauderdale reckless driving accident are often chaotic. You may have to spend several days in the hospital because your injuries may require medical monitoring or surgery. Once you come home, you are probably still in pain and you need to focus on your recovery. The best option you have is to seek the help of an experienced Fort Lauderdale reckless driving accident lawyer. Not only can a lawyer make sure you know your rights, but they can negotiate with the insurance company and talk to insurance adjusters on your behalf so that you don’t accept a lower settlement than you deserve. Your focus should be singular: Getting your physical health back following your accident with a reckless driver.