Every driver on Montana’s roadways has an obligation to operate their motor vehicle in a way that will not harm others. If you have been injured by a reckless driver, you may be entitled to recover damages. While a Billings auto accident attorney can advise you on what type and level of monetary damages you can expect to recover in your particular case, the following offers some general information on pursuing a personal injury claim where a reckless driver causes a car accident.
What is Considered Reckless or Aggressive Driving in Montana?
Reckless driving is a crime in Montana, defined as driving “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” There are many examples of what could be considered reckless driving in Montana, including the following:
- Changing lanes or passing improperly
- Crossing a yellow or double-yellow line
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Excessive speeding
- Driving too fast for road conditions, such as in a snow or ice storm
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Fleeing law enforcement
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Speeding up to try to “beat” a yellow light
- Street racing
Reckless Drivers Owe Compensation to Accident Victims
As long as you file a claim for damages within three years of the date of your accident and you meet the standards for recovery under Montana’s comparative negligence standard — in other words, you share less than 50 percent responsibility for the damages — you should be entitled to make a successful claim for compensatory damages. These include:
- Payment for your medical bills
- Amounts to compensate you for your lost wages
- Amounts for your pain and suffering
In addition to these actual damages, you may be able to recover punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer for their actions. Montana law allows punitive damages when the defendant is found guilty of actual fraud or malice. The Montana courts consider reckless behavior — including some forms of reckless driving — to be a form of malice. However, punitive damages are not automatic. In order to award punitive damages, the court will look at several factors, including:
- The nature, extent, and reprehensibility of the act
- The defendant’s intent when committing the act
- The amount of actual (compensatory) damages awarded
- The defendant’s prior criminal sanctions for this case, and any previous awards of punitive damages for the same acts in other cases
There is also a cap on punitive damages in Montana. They cannot be more than $10 million or three percent of the defendant’s net worth, whichever is less.
A Billings Auto Accident Lawyer Will Hold Reckless and Aggressive Drivers Accountable
Holding a reckless driver accountable for your damages after an accident can be complicated, which is why consulting with a Billings auto accident attorney is recommended. An experienced lawyer has the resources and know-how to collect and examine the relevant evidence and make a solid case for all damages you are entitled to, including punitive damages when allowed. In addition, a car accident litigation lawyer will know how to successfully negotiate a settlement or, if warranted, will file a lawsuit and fight for your rights in court.
Contact a Billings Auto Accident Attorney for Help After a Reckless Driving Accident
To find out more about how a Ragain & Clark lawyer can represent you in a case for damages against a reckless driver, contact us online to schedule a consultation. Your initial consultation is free and confidential.
To call our offices directly, call:
Billings Office: 406-651-8888
Worland Office: 307-388-6400