No one wants to be a victim of road rage, but it nonetheless happens, even if you try to take steps to avoid it. Most people have experienced road rage, and if they are lucky enough, the aggressive driver finally moves on, and no one gets hurt.
Because road rage often causes accidents, victims could suffer severe to catastrophic injuries in a road rage incident. It’s important to know that you can recover compensation from the at-fault driver if you suffer injuries or lose a loved one because of a incident.
What Is Road Rage, and What Causes it?
Aggressive driving is against the law, and in some cases, the penalties are higher. For example, an ordinary speeding ticket isn’t likely to incur as large of a fine as excessive or reckless speeding.
Road rage is a broad category, and often includes:
- Speeding, especially excessive speeding.
- Swerving in and out of traffic.
- Constant lane-changing.
- Failing to yield the right of way.
- Blowing the horn, especially in an aggressive manner.
- Not stopping at traffic signals and signs.
- Coming to sudden stops and starting again.
- Swerving into the driver next to you.
If someone feels offended because of your driving, or you cut someone off by mistake, it could trigger a bout of road rage. Generally, the person who goes into a rage has emotional issues, whether this is normal behavior for him or her or because that person just went through an emotional event, such as a breakup or the loss of a loved one.
Regardless of the reason, the person committing road rage can face criminal and civil charges. The state could press criminal charges if the person committing road rage broke the law, and the victim could take legal action against the perpetrator for causing an accident, whether the victim suffered physical injury or not. Even if the victim suffers minor personal injuries, he or she can still recover compensation for damaged or destroyed personal property, including his or her vehicle and property inside the vehicle that suffered damage or destruction.
Actions That Could Cause Someone to Go into a Fit of Rage
You can often tell if someone is consumed in a bout of road rage. Pulling up fast to other drivers, yelling, flashing headlights, constantly using the horn, and giving lewd gestures are all signs that a driver is escalating or has already escalated.
Depending on how upset the other driver is, just one or two actions from the surrounding drivers (or even no action at all) could push the aggressive driver over the edge. Don’t engage with drivers you think might be road raging: continue to drive defensively, and resist the urge to respond to raging drivers.
What to Do When Someone Exhibits Road Rage
If you are the target of someone exhibiting road rage, stay as far away from the person as possible. If you slow down, and the irate person slows down with you, take the next turn or get off at the next exit, as long as you aren’t turning down a dead-end or a residential area. If you cannot find an ideal place to turn off, continue as you are until you can find a populated place to turn into. If necessary, drive to the closest police station.
There is the possibility that the person exhibiting road rage will take more aggressive action if you get into an unpopulated area or if you stop your vehicle. You can also call 911 and let the police know where you are and what is going on. If possible, try to get a description of the vehicle or the driver’s license plate number. If you have a dashcam, make sure it is recording. You may use that as evidence against the aggressive driver.
What You Should Do After a Road Rage Accident
In normal situations, you would check on other drivers involved in the accident. If the other driver caused the accident because of road rage, stay in your vehicle and lock the doors. Call first responders immediately and let them know that you were a victim of a road rage accident. If you are in fear for your life—if the aggressive driver menacingly approaches you, alert the police to the other driver’s aggressive behavior.
Once the police arrive on the scene and take the other driver into custody, then you can get out of your vehicle. If possible, take photos of the accident, as long as you are not in the way of investigators. Ask the police how to get a copy of the accident report.
Do not approach the other driver, even to get his or her contact and insurance information. Let the police obtain that for you. You can, however, speak with other witnesses to get their contact information, though the police will also obtain that for you.
Who to Contact After a Road Rage Accident
Always seek medical attention first. Even if the emergency medical technicians checked you out at the scene, you should go to the hospital and have doctors check you from head to toe. Some injuries might not manifest for hours or even a day or two later.
After you receive medical treatment, contact your insurance company to let it know that you were involved in an accident. Only give the insurance company your contact information, the date and location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact information. The insurance company will ask questions about the accident—refer the representative to your attorney.
Because the insurance company is in business to make money, it will try its hardest to avoid paying a claim. Every claim it pays decreases its profit. Even if you know you are not at fault for the accident, the insurance company will twist what you say in an attempt to deny your claim or to offer you a low settlement. Car accident attorneys are wise to this tactic, so it’s harder for the insurance representative to pull this trick off if your attorney discusses the accident with the insurance company.
If the representative continues pressing you for information, just continue referring him or her to your attorney, no matter how frustrating the conversation gets.
Injuries You Might Suffer in a Road Rage Accident
Because road rage accidents involve aggressive driving on the part of at least one driver, injuries are more likely to be severe or catastrophic.
Some of the injuries a victim of a road rage accident might suffer include:
- Cuts, scrapes, bumps, and bruises.
- Road rash if you are thrown from your vehicle.
- Strains and sprains.
- Torn and pulled muscles and other soft tissue injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Facial injuries, including eye injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Internal injuries.
- Wrongful death.
You could also suffer secondary injuries, such as infections from open wounds. If you have an underlying condition, an immunodeficiency, or you are on medication or treatment that lowers your white blood count—such as chemo—your injuries could take longer than normal to heal. The risk of suffering from secondary injuries is much higher if you have conditions that impair healing.
Damages You Can Recover After a Road Rage Accident
If you suffer injuries in a road rage accident or you lost a loved one in a road rage accident, you can take legal action to collect damages. You can recover two types of compensatory damages, including economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages have a monetary value while non-economic damages do not.
The court orders compensatory damages in an attempt to make you whole again. While the money doesn’t remove your injuries or bring a loved one back, it does go a long way in reducing the financial stress you have when your household is down one income.
You can also recover punitive damages if you prove that the defendant’s actions were malicious. The court only orders punitive damages to punish a defendant’s malicious, fraudulent, or oppressive actions. While punitive damages are sometimes difficult to secure, in cases of severe malicious behavior, it is worth the extra time it takes.
Special damages, usually known as economic damages, include:
- Past medical expenses for those incurred in the accident and before a settlement or a trial award.
- Future medical expenses for those incurred because of the accident and after a settlement or a trial award. Future medical expenses could include years of physical, occupational, cognitive, and psychological therapies.
- Past lost wages for those lost from the time of the accident through the time of a settlement or a trial award.
- Future lost wages for those you expect to incur because of long-term or permanent disabilities that prevent you from going back to work after a settlement or a trial award. In some cases, you might work, but in a different job for a lower salary. In this case, you could recover partial lost wages.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property.
- Funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses.
General damages, usually referred to as non-economic damages, include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress if you suffered injuries in a road rage accident.
- Emotional distress if you lost a loved one in a road rage accident.
- Loss of quality of life.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a hand or foot.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight.
- Excessive scarring.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer take part in family outings and events.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a relationship with your spouse.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do your usual chores, such as grocery shopping, home maintenance and repairs, and lawn maintenance.
How Long Do I Have to File a Road Rage Lawsuit?
Even if the state is prosecuting the criminal case immediately, you have a limited timeframe to pursue a civil action, depending on the statute of limitations in your state; for example, up to two years to file a car accident case to recover damages against the defendant in California. However, you should contact a road rage accident attorney as soon as possible: it takes time to investigate the case, and to work on settlement negotiations should you decide to attempt a settlement first.
Finally, the sooner you contact an attorney the better, since you are more likely to remember the events leading up to and during the accident soon after the accident. If you wait a year or more, you could forget something that could benefit your case, or you could run out of time if your attorney needs to hire an accident investigator.
If the defendant’s insurance company fights the case, you might need to employ expert witnesses to testify on your behalf. Expert witnesses might include various medical doctors to testify about your condition and accident reconstruction experts.
In any event, holding drivers who engage in road rage accountable is important. Taking these dangerous drivers off the road and ensuring victims of road rage receive the compensation they deserve makes driving safer and more enjoyable for all of us.