Reckless driving occurs when a motorist negligently or intentionally disregards traffic rules and regulations, endangering the safety and property of others on or near the road. Some examples of reckless driving are:
- Weaving in and out of lanes
- Driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs
- Disregarding lights, signs, and signals
- Driving on the wrong side of the road
- Driving without lights at night
- Failure to use turn signals
- Failure to yield
- Driving a vehicle with defective brakes, lights, or other systems
In South Dakota, reckless driving is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by:
- Up to one year in jail
- Up to $2,000 in fines
- Up to 8 points applied to driver’s license
- Possible suspension of driver’s license
Careless driving is a class 2 misdemeanor that carries slightly less severe penalties. Despite these criminal consequences, South Dakota ranks third among all states in reckless driving charges.
Reckless Driving Injuries
Car accidents caused by reckless driving lead to a number of serious injuries for victims:
- Brain injuries. Even minor, low-speed reckless driving crashes can cause concussions and other brain injuries. Headaches, blurred vision, speech problems, depression, and excessive sleeping are all symptoms of head trauma.
- Whiplash. The impact of a reckless driving crash can snap the neck back and forth violently, damaging tissues in the neck and upper spine and causing severe pain and limited range of motion.
- Leg and knee injuries. The impact of legs or knees hitting a steering wheel or getting wedged under a dashboard can result in a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a fractured patella (knee cap), or a broken femur, all of which require surgery.
- Internal bleeding and organ damage. Seat belts or deployed airbags may cause internal organ damage in a reckless driving crash. Internal bleeding can be fatal if left untreated.
Even if you feel all right after a reckless driving crash, you could have sustained one or more such injuries. The adrenaline produced by the experience of the accident could mask your symptoms in the immediate aftermath. That’s why you should see a doctor right away. A medical exam and diagnostic tests can spot injuries caused by the crash and allow you to get prompt treatment for a faster recovery. An immediate medical exam also documents the injuries you’ve suffered due to the crash. This documentation is vital to your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.
Criminal vs. Civil Penalties
If you’re involved in an accident caused by a reckless driver in South Dakota, you must remain at the scene of the crash and call 911. Law enforcement officers will arrive to examine the cars and the scene of the wreck and make an official report. Even if the at-fault driver is charged by the police with reckless driving and arrested, that driver’s criminal reckless driving conviction will not provide you any compensation for damages you’ve suffered in the crash:
- Damage to your vehicle
- Medical expenses for your injuries
- Lost wages from time off work during your recovery
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional/psychological trauma
- Wrongful death if you’ve lost a loved one in the accident
To receive compensation for any of these losses, you will have to file:
- A claim for damages with the insurance company of the defendant (the at-fault driver)
- A civil personal injury lawsuit against the defendant if the insurance company denies the claim or offers an unreasonably low settlement
If the at-fault motorist is convicted of reckless driving, that conviction will strengthen your claim and help you prove liability if your case should go to court. The insurance company’s lawyers will know this and be more likely to negotiate a reasonable settlement with your attorney. If you don’t have a lawyer, however, they’re not likely to take you seriously. They’ll offer you an unreasonably low settlement, knowing you’re not likely to file a suit against them without legal representation.
Have You Been Injured by a Reckless Driver in a South Dakota Car Accident?
An experienced car accident lawyer can negotiate to get fair compensation for your damages from the insurance company or fight for you in court if necessary while you focus on your recovery. Contact us online or call us at 605-306-4100 to schedule a free consultation. You pay no attorney fees until we win your case.