What Is Road Rage?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Automobile Association of America (AAA) generally define road rage as an extreme form of aggressive driving. According to the NHTSA, aggressive driving behaviors include following too closely, driving at excessive speeds, weaving through traffic, and running stop lights and signs. Aggressive driving occasionally escalates to gesturing in anger or yelling at another motorist, confrontation, physical assault, and even murder. Road rage is the label that has emerged to describe extremely angry and violent driver behavior.
In other words, road rage can involve aggressive driving actions such as speeding in frustration, cutting in front of other motorists. However, it can also involve shouting at other motorists, throwing objects, or even getting out of the car and starting a physical fight. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with an aggressive driver speak with a car accident attorney today to discuss your recovery options.
Instances of road rage may be becoming more prevalent. As reported by the AAA, 80 percent of drivers report feeling angry, aggressive, or experiencing road rage at least once in the previous 12 months. Specific acts of aggression included yelling, purposefully tailgating, and even cutting other vehicles off or intentionally colliding with them. The organization estimates that more than 50 percent of fatal accidents involve an angry or aggressive driver.
Unfortunately, Virginians have seen an increase in road rage incidents reported on the nightly news. In December 2019, a driver in Culpepper County was convicted of firing a gun at another motorist. The driver became enraged after another vehicle cut him off. The incident led to a rear-end collision involving three vehicles. One Virginia Beach man was arrested for assaulting another man in a parking lot after a road rage incident. The confrontation was initially verbal, but quickly escalated into a physical altercation, causing serious injuries.
What Should You Do if You Are a Victim of Road Rage?
Make no mistake, aggressive driving is against the law in Virginia. A conviction of road rage carries serious penalties, which can become more severe if the wrongdoer had the intent to injure another person.
In addition, if a road rage incident escalates to an assault or other serious crime, the perpetrator may face criminal charges. If a road rage-type of car incident involves physical assault, you should always contact the police department.
Road rage and aggressive driving behaviors may cause physical injuries and property damage. If you or a loved one were injured in a road rage accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Injured parties may collect damages from the party that exhibited road rage, if their behavior led to an accident.
In Virginia, at-fault drivers are responsible for damages resulting from vehicle accidents. If another’s negligence causes an accident, they can be liable for injuries stemming from that accident. Negligence is a breach of the duty of care drivers owe the public. Drivers have a duty to drive safely and follow traffic laws. Road rage and aggressive driving violate a driver’s duty of care.
When you are involved in an accident, all drivers should stop and exchange information, including contact and insurance information. If you feel it is unsafe to interact with another angry driver, try to note the driver’s license plate number. If you are carrying a smartphone, taking a picture of the license plate should suffice if it is legible. You should also contact law enforcement and remain safely at the scene until they arrive.
Law enforcement will interview the drivers, charge and arrest them if necessary, and file a police report of the incident. Police reports are compiled in every vehicle accident in which someone is injured or killed.
The crash report is a crucial piece of evidence about the causes of the accident. You can request your crash report from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Another driver may dispute the causes of the accident. The crash report’s determination of causation can be helpful to support your claim. Evidence will be required to prove who was at fault.
Pictures of the scene and eyewitnesses may also be critical evidence. It’s a good idea to take pictures, and law enforcement officers will typically interview eyewitnesses and record their statements.
Have Your Car Accident Lawyer Contact the At-fault Driver’s Insurance Company
Once you have contact information and evidence, you can contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company to file a third-party claim. A third-party claim is similar to filing an insurance claim with your own insurance. However, you are requesting that the at-fault party’s insurer reimburse you for the costs related to your injuries.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
Although Virginia law requires insured drivers to carry minimum thresholds of liability insurance, filing a third-party claim can be complex.
First, insurance companies can be very dedicated to minimizing the amount they pay out on injured parties’ claims. They may try to discredit the extent of your injuries or offer a low settlement in hopes you will accept it.
Second, while our state requires minimum insurance coverage from drivers who choose insurance, it doesn’t require that all drivers choose insurance. Drivers who don’t want insurance can pay a fee to the DMV instead. If they do, they will not have insurance with which your third-party claim can be paid.
If either of these events occur, consulting a personal injury attorney is prudent. Personal injury attorneys are experienced in negotiating with relentless insurance companies.
Second, if appropriate, an attorney may pursue a trial in court to seek just compensation for your injuries. Under Virginia law, if you are injured by a negligent party in a vehicle accident, you may be entitled to seek compensation. While an insurance company adjuster may turn you down, a personal injury lawsuit is heard by a judge and jury. An experienced attorney regularly assists injured victims in building a claim for compensation.
A personal injury lawsuit takes place in civil court. Your civil claim will not be impacted by any additional criminal charges filed against an aggressive driver. The criminal charges and your civil claim will be entirely independent of one another.
If you would like to discuss your road rage case, contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon as you are able.