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Negligence & Recklessness In Car Accidents

Updated on: 6/18/2021

Reckless and negligent driving often causes the most serious car accidents and the most severe injuries, or even fatalities in extreme cases.

Reckless driving in Washington state is legally a much more serious (or more dangerous or egregious) offense than negligent driving. Reckless driving is considered a criminal offense, while negligent driving is typically only a civil traffic offense. Under Washington state law, reckless driving is defined as a when a driver operates a motor vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other people or property.

Examples of reckless driving include: very excessive speeding (at least 25+ miles over the posted speed limit), any wanton or willful behavior that affects your ability to steer or shift your vehicle; extremely dangerous behavior that can affect your vision or slow your reaction times (such as drinking and driving); and automobile racing on public roads.

Negligent driving in Washington state is defined as operating a motor vehicle in a careless manner under the circumstances.

Examples of negligent driving may include: running a stop sign, performing a lane change without looking or yielding the right of way, or any other type of careless driving that might cause an accident.

Reckless Driving Penalties in Washington State

In Washington, reckless driving is considered a gross misdemeanor (defined as a criminal offense where the maximum jail time is less than one year). This crime is more serious than a simple traffic infraction and will be noted on your permanent driving record. Reckless driving can result in a fine of up to $5,000 and the offender can be sentenced to jail time not exceeding one year. In most cases a reckless driving charge is also accompanied by at least a 30 day suspension of the offender's driver's license. A driver who has been convicted of reckless driving is required to get an SR-22 high risk auto insurance, which is typically much more expensive than regular auto insurance.

Help For Victims Of Car Accidents

If you have been badly injured in a car accident caused by a negligent or reckless driver, the most important step to take is ensure that you get the proper medical treatment and obtain an official diagnosis of your injuries from a medical doctor. It also may be in your best interests to consult with an experienced Washington personal injury attorney who understands car accident cases. 

Our award-winning attorneys offer a free case review to anyone who has suffered serious injury as a result of a crash. Our attorneys also work on a contingency fee basis, which means there are no up-front costs if you do decide to hire us to represent you. Call (206) 727-4000 or use the confidential contact form on this page to get started.

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