On September 1, 2019, actor Kevin Hart was injured in an accident involving his 1970 Plymouth Barracuda. CBS News reports that Jared Black was driving the vintage muscle car in Malibu when he accelerated and lost control of the vehicle. After crossing the lane of oncoming traffic, the car careened down an embankment and hit a tree head-on. The tree was it so hard that it was uprooted and rolled down the hill.
None of the three occupants (Hart, Black, and Black’s fiancé) were wearing seatbelts. All three suffered severe injuries in the accident. Hart has suffered severe back injuries and is working on rehabilitation by doing physical therapy at home. His representatives state that he hopes to be back to work by early 2020. Hart has expressed his support for Black, saying that he has “nothing but love” for the driver. He wished both Black and his fiancé a speedy recovery.
The California Highway Patrol report stated that Black was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash. Black was determined to have violated the law, but the report did not indicate whether criminal charges were likely.
California law entitles people who have been injured by reckless-drivers to compensation for their accident-related losses, including their medical expenses, lost income, property damage, and physical and emotional pain and suffering. If a reckless driver has injured you, call Arash Law today to schedule a free case evaluation with a Los Angeles reckless driving accident-victim lawyer.
What is Reckless Driving?
Section 23103 of the California Vehicle Code defines reckless driving as driving a vehicle “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Reckless driving is a criminal offense – not a traffic infraction or civil offense. This means that it can be punished by jail time and a criminal record. Those convicted of reckless driving face a jail sentence of at least five and no more than ninety days. This is in addition to fines, court costs, and attorney’s fees.
Section 23104 provides even more severe consequences when reckless driving causes bodily injury to a person other than the driver. If convicted of this crime, drivers face a jail term of a minimum of thirty days and can spend up to six months in jail. This, too, is in addition to fines and fees. In the case of the Kevin Hart accident, both passengers were injured (as well as the driver). This means that Jared Black could face up to six months in jail if prosecutors decide to file reckless driving charges against him.
Types of Reckless Driving
It is essential to understand the difference between negligent driving and reckless driving. Negligence is the failure to use ordinary care while operating a vehicle. It is a civil infraction, and injury victims can file lawsuits against the driver for money damages. By contrast, reckless driving is a criminal offense. Prosecutors can file criminal charges against the driver, and the driver faces jail time if convicted. Because there are more serious legal consequences, the behavior must also be more egregious. Rather than a simple lack of ordinary care, the driver must show a “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
Here are some examples of driving behavior that could constitute reckless driving:
- Driving with a blood-alcohol level between .01 and .08
- Intentionally speeding through a school zone or construction work zone
- Tailgating, weaving and other aggressive driving maneuvers
- Speeding significantly over the posted speed limit
- Ignoring stop signs and traffic signals
- Street Racing
- Driving a car known to have faulty brakes or other defects
- Illegal passing on a shoulder or into a lane of oncoming traffic
- Driving with too many passengers or not enough seat belts
- Passing a stopped school bus
Prosecutors look to the severity of the driver’s behavior in determining whether to file criminal charges for reckless driving. If the driver’s behavior is beyond a simple lack of ordinary care and rises to the level of willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others, criminal charges can be filed.
Reckless Driving Statistics
Reckless driving consists of many different types of dangerous driving behaviors. These behaviors account for the vast majority of auto accident fatalities across the United States. Here some facts about reckless driving:
Aggressive Driving – The Insurance Information Institute reports that 56 percent of fatal accidents between 2003 and 2007 were attributed to aggressive driving behaviors. The study included such acts as following improperly, improper or erratic lane changing, passing where prohibited, operating the vehicle in an erratic, reckless, careless, or negligent manner or suddenly changing speeds, failure to yield right of way, failure to obey traffic signs, traffic control devices, or traffic officers, failure to observe safety zone traffic laws, failure to observe warnings or instructions on vehicle displaying them, failure to signal, driving too fast for conditions or in excess of posted speed limit, racing, and making an improper turn.
Speeding – The Insurance Information Institute also reports that speeding has been a factor in about a third of all motor vehicle fatalities for over two decades. Speeding is at “the top of the list” of factors involved in fatal accidents.
Alcohol-Impaired Driving – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that a person dies every fifty minutes in the United States as a result of drunk driving. That’s 29 people every day, at a total cost of over $44 billion every year. DUI can be charged as its own criminal offense. But there are many cases where a driver’s blood-alcohol level does not quite meet the .08 threshold. In these cases, the driver can still be charged with reckless driving and be sentenced to jail time.
Other Impaired Driving – Impaired driving is not as simple as establishing that the driver had a blood alcohol content of at least .08. Drugs and alcohol can be combined to have an even greater impairment upon a driver. In a case such as this, the driver’s blood alcohol content is often not enough to prove the full level of his or her impairment. Prescription medications are even more confusing. Toxicology tests will show the medication in the driver’s system because it has been prescribed. It is difficult to say the exact level at which impairment can be established – in fact, many experts will refuse to testify on that issue at all. This can make it difficult for prosecutors to file DUI charges against a driver impaired by prescription medications.
Reckless driving, however, requires no set proof of impairment – only the driver’s willful and wanton disregard for safety. Reckless driving charges are often the only tool prosecutors have to deal with drivers impaired by their own prescription medication. This has caused a major public health risk as the opioid epidemic sweeps across the United States.
Distracted Driving – Distracted driving has also become a major problem in recent years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that over three thousand people were killed in the United States in 2017 by distracted drivers. Texting and driving is a traffic infraction that does not carry criminal penalties. When distracted driving is particularly egregious, however, it can rise to the level of “willful and wanton disregard for safety,” and prosecutors could choose to file criminal charges. This might happen if a driver were to text and drive in a school zone, work zone, or other area known to be particularly dangerous. It could also happen if the driver were not simply texting and driving, but watching a lengthy video, or engaging in other highly dangerous acts with their cell phone or mobile devices. As in other cases, it is the severity of the driver’s conduct that determines whether criminal charges will be filed for reckless driving.
Teen Drivers – Teens drivers are known to have higher accident rates. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. Because of this, driving behaviors that would only be negligence for experienced drivers can constitute reckless driving for new teen drivers. Loud radio music, texting and driving, and other common distractors can be fatal for teen drivers. Teens also have restrictions that older adult drivers do not. They may not carry passengers under the age of 20 (except for immediate family members). They are subject to zero-tolerance alcohol policy. Violations of these laws can be serious enough to support criminal charges for reckless driving.
Contact an Accident Lawyer for Reckless-Driving Victims in California
Reckless drivers cause serious injuries. Often, car crash victims are left with losses that affect them for the rest of their lives. California law requires reckless drivers to compensate injury victims for all the losses they suffer as a result of a car accident. This includes medical bills, pain, and suffering, lost wages, decreases to future income potential, scarring, and disfigurement decreased enjoyment of life and many other intangible losses.
Call Arash Law at (888) 488-1391. Our skilled California auto accident lawyers have extensive experience in dealing with insurance companies. We know how to protect your claim from lowball settlement offers and other tactics. You don’t have to deal with the insurance company on your own – we fight hard for California car accident victims so they can focus on recovering from their injuries.
Photo Credits: · Featured Image - Photo Courtesy of Per Lööv