Being involved in a car accident is traumatic enough, but it can be even more terrifying if you are the victim of a road rage incident. Understandably, you want to hold the responsible party accountable. While many situations involve liability against the road rage aggressor, you still need to prove liability before you can collect compensation for your damages. If you suffered injuries after a road rage accident, contact an experienced Cedar Rapids injury lawyer at 303 Legal, P.C.
In most cases, road rage goes beyond ordinary negligence. It is reckless or intentional and can even carry criminal charges for the aggressor. That means they can be prosecuted by the state as well as being pursued in a civil lawsuit. Unfortunately, people who engage in road rage often take off after causing an accident. But, don’t assume you have no legal options. Contact our office to schedule an appointment to discuss your case. We may be able to track down the responsible party or help you file an uninsured motorist (UM) claim on your policy if you have the appropriate coverage.
What Is Road Rage?
Road rage is when someone gets angry and engages in dangerous behavior on the road. Typically, they recklessly or intentionally drive in a manner that endangers other people’s lives simply because they are angry. Someone may use a dangerous weapon while in the vehicle or use the vehicle itself as a weapon. Drivers who engage in this aggressive and illegal behavior are risking other people’s lives. They can easily cause a collision and injure someone or even kill them.
Examples of road rage behaviors include:
- Brake checking;
- Weaving back and forth in a lane;
- Using their vehicle to swerve into another vehicle intentionally;
- Following another vehicle too closely;
- Running a vehicle off the road; and
- Cutting another car off.
Some road rage incidents involve another deadly weapon, such as a gun. In extreme cases, some aggressors have pulled out a gun and shot at a victim, injuring or killing them.
Criminal Charges for Road Rage
At a minimum, the law may classify road rage as the criminal charge of reckless driving. A criminal judge may order the defendant to pay fines and even serve jail time in some instances. In severe cases, charges are a felony because someone was severely injured or killed due to the road rage incident.
Determining Road Rage Accident Liability
Being upset because of heavy traffic or other personal issues is understandable. However, using your vehicle to take out your frustrations is both wrong and extremely dangerous. You may wonder, “Who is at fault when someone suffered injuries after a road rage accident?” When someone’s road rage results in an accident, they are usually at fault. Unfortunately, you still need to prove a connection between the driver’s road rage and the accident. There is no automatic assumption of liability against the aggressor. You need to show how the other driver’s actions (road rage) led to the accident, and you must prove that your damages are a direct result of the road rage.
What To Do if the Road Rage Driver Flees the Scene?
It can be more challenging to prove liability against someone who flees the scene. When a driver engages in road rage and causes you to crash into someone else or a stationary object, they are not likely to stick around since their car suffered no impact. That doesn’t mean they aren’t liable for your injuries or that you are at fault for hitting the other vehicle. If a third driver is not aware that you were a victim of road rage when you hit them, they may try to hold you accountable as if you were at fault for the collision. Here, you likely have a defense under the “sudden emergency doctrine.”
Sudden Emergency Defense
Other states have addressed this topic, including the California Court of Appeals. In Shiver v. Laramee, the case involved “brake checking.” The court determined a driver can use California’s sudden emergency defense when they unintentionally caused a collision while acting reasonably to avoid a crash with the road rage aggressor.
Hit and Run
Leaving the scene of an accident is illegal, whether it’s caused by road rage or not. It’s a hit-and-run accident, and the driver could be facing criminal charges for not stopping. If the accident was a hit-and-run, you should contact the police from the scene. Describe the vehicle and as much information as you have. If you managed to memorize any of the license plate information, that is helpful. Tell the police what direction the driver fled.
If the police are unable to locate the vehicle, all hope is not lost. Some police departments don’t have the manpower to investigate a hit-and-run accident as thoroughly as they should. Let us open an independent investigation and see whether we can potentially use our resources to locate the at-fault driver.
In the event we can’t find the driver, we can still assist you in pursuing an uninsured motorist (UM) claim with your insurance company. Be advised, though, a UM claim is not a first-party claim. That means your insurance adjuster will “step in the shoes” of the at-fault driver. They will scrutinize liability and your injuries to reduce their overall payout. Please don’t make a mistake and assume that because it is your insurance company, they are on your side.
What Contributes to Road Rage?
There’s no way to know what is going through someone’s mind when they decide to drive recklessly and engage in road rage. However, some factors are commonly linked with road rage. These factors include:
- Significant traffic delays;
- Other driver actions that trigger a reaction;
- The ability to remain anonymous;
- Bad time management;
- Indifference to the law or any consequences; and
- Existing bad driving habits.
None of these are excuses or valid justifications for road rage and endangering other people’s lives. If you or someone you loved was involved in a collision due to road rage, you need a legal advocate on your side.
Compensation in a Road Rage Accident
If you successfully locate the road rage aggressor, you could be entitled to compensation for your damages. Depending on the individual circumstances of your claim, you might receive reimbursement for:
- Medical expenses to date;
- Future medical treatment;
- Lost wages to date;
- Future loss of earning capacity;
- Property damage to your vehicle;
- Pain and suffering; and
- Any other related costs.
Road rage is considered reckless driving, which means you also could receive an award for punitive damages. The law reserves punitive damages for cases involving gross negligence or intentional misconduct. This award is not intended to compensate you for your injuries per se. Rather, it’s intended to punish the defendant and deter them from engaging in similarly dangerous behavior again.
Contact a Cedar Rapids Auto Vehicle Accident Attorney
If you are the victim of a road rage accident, you aren’t alone. The skilled lawyer at 303 Legal, P.C. is here to help. Attorney Jonathan Schmidt has years of experience assisting clients with all their personal injury needs. Our firm has worked hard to develop a reputation for success. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment to learn more about how we can help you.