What Can I Do When Road Rage Injures Me?
Road rage is a serious public health risk throughout the entire United States, including in Florida. Long waits in heavy traffic are made worse by warm, uncomfortable weather, and these are risk factors for road rage. Florida drivers must be aware of these risk factors so they can identify aggressive driving behaviors. These bad habits are likely to cause road rage accidents—especially in the hot, humid weather that people often experience here in southern Florida.
If you suffered injuries because of an aggressive driver, you have legal rights that you must protect. This can be a difficult process, but fortunately, experienced road rage attorneys are here to help. Skilled injury lawyers fight hard to ensure that accident victims get fair compensation for all the injuries and losses caused by a negligent driver. Learn more about road rage so that you can help keep everyone safer on the roads of Florida by avoiding this deadly driving behavior.
Common Road Rage Behaviors
To prevent road rage, drivers must first understand what road rage is. Road rage is a series of aggressive behaviors while driving that can cause accidents, injuries, and even death.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, these behaviors can include:
- Following too closely
- Dangerous lane changes (for example, without a signal or illegally changing lanes in an intersection)
- Trying to pass another vehicle outside of a designated lane (such as on a sidewalk, shoulder, ditch, or median)
- Speeding up or slowing down without warning
- failure to observe safety zone traffic laws
- Failure to yield right of way
- Failure to obey traffic signs, traffic control devices, or traffic officers
- Failure to observe warnings or instructions on vehicles
- Speeding (either by driving too fast for the current conditions or faster than the posted speed limit)
- Racing other vehicles
- Making an improper turn
- Operating the vehicle in an erratic, reckless, careless, or negligent manner
As you can see, road rage covers a wide range of aggressive driving behaviors. Do not limit your definition of road rage to only include honking or flashing your headlights. Any aggressive driving behaviors can lead to accidents. This is a violation of the legal obligation to operate your vehicle with due care, and even if you are safe behind the wheel, other drivers can engage in road rage and put you at risk.
Violent Crimes and Road Rage
Road rage is not limited to driving behaviors, either. Road rage can sometimes involve violent crimes that occur separately from the way a driver was operating his or her vehicle. A study by AAA found that 218 murders occurred in a seven-year period from road rage. This horrifying statistic shows that road rage does not just cause unintentional injury through auto accidents—it can cause intentional murder through violent crimes.
A driver does not have to have a firearm to commit a violent crime. A vehicle can become a deadly weapon, and this means that a driver could face aggravated assault charges without having a separate weapon. Threats, intimidation, and coercion can also lead to criminal charges.
Drivers must be held accountable for these criminal behaviors—especially on the road, where it is so easy for even a minor threat to cause a fatal car crash. Even if a prosecutor cannot secure a criminal conviction, an injury victim still has the legal right to hold an aggressive driver accountable in civil court for the financial losses that he or she caused.
It is important to exercise this right. Injured victims can file an auto insurance claim (and, if necessary, a lawsuit) against the dangerous driver if they sustained serious injuries. This not only provides financial consequences for the driver’s aggressive behavior, but also protects the victim’s legal right to fair compensation for all the injuries and losses caused by the driver’s negligence.
The Hidden Costs of Road Rage
It is not always obvious just how much a road rage accident will cost a driver. Immediately after the accident, a road-raging driver might face traffic tickets for civil infractions or even criminal charges. These penalties come with hefty fines. They might need to hire a criminal defense attorney to represent them in the criminal court or at a DMV hearing, and this is another costly expense.
A driver is also likely to face civil penalties if anyone suffered injuries in the accident. This process starts when the victim files a claim against the driver’s auto insurance policy. If the insurance company can negotiate a settlement, this claim can resolve out of court. If not, the victim will likely file a civil lawsuit, and the driver will have to invest time into defending it. Taking time off for depositions, court hearings, or trials can cost you. And even after all this, the driver could still face the added cost of higher auto insurance premiums.
WAVY spoke with The Zebra, an insurance comparison website, about how much a road rage accident will increase car insurance premiums. The numbers are surprising, as drivers charged with reckless driving could expect an average of 39 percent increase in their premiums. This was almost as much as a DUI (which increased premiums by an average of 52 percent).
Insurance companies calculate premiums by precise mathematical formulas. Insurance companies use vast amounts of prior claims data to determine your risk of getting into an accident in the future. These numbers show that insurance companies have found reckless drivers to be nearly as dangerous as drunk drivers.
What to Do After a Road Rage Crash
Road rage can terrify anyone, but make safety your immediate priority. Some road-raging drivers even follow others off the highway or into parking lots, making threats or even displaying weapons. You always want to call 911 so law enforcement officers arrive at the scene. Never confront a road-raging driver after a crash, as they might continue their rage and escalate the matter into physical violence against you.
In addition, if police officers determine that the other driver violated one or more traffic laws, they can arrest the driver, who might face criminal charges. A criminal conviction can only help your case, as a conviction is automatic proof of negligent conduct and liability.
You also want to make sure that you receive all the medical treatment you need for your injuries. Following your treatment plan to a T will not only lead to the fullest possible physical recovery, but it also demonstrates that you are taking your injuries seriously. Failure to keep up with physical therapy or other medical care can indicate to an insurance company that your injuries are not as severe as you claim.
As soon as you have a proper diagnosis of your injuries, you should take the time to consult with an experienced aggressive driving accident attorney. A lawyer can review what happened in your accident and identify who should be liable. The road-raging driver should be accountable for your losses, but their employer or another party might also share liability. These claims can be more complicated than they seem.
You might expect insurance companies to take responsibility for your losses if their policyholder caused your injuries due to road rage. However, in many cases, there might not be clear evidence of what happened. The right attorney will use witness accounts, video footage, and other evidence to prove liability in your road rage claim.
How a Lawyer Can Help You Seek the Justice You Deserve
There is no requirement under the law to have a lawyer represent you in an insurance claim. You might even think your road rage accident claim is an open-and-shut case since the other driver engaged in such misconduct. However, even with clear evidence of liability—such as a criminal conviction—you must still settle the issue of damages.
Full justice involves receiving compensation for all of your past and future losses stemming from your accident and injuries. You might have a good idea of your losses, but the insurance company does not. Insurance companies regularly underestimate losses, which leads to settlement offers that are far too low, even in cases of road rage.
Having an attorney on your side can ensure that you prove all your damages, which might include:
- Medical expenses – Injuries that need medical treatment can result in a pile of medical bills. You might already have many bills, and you might expect many more. Severe injuries might require treatment and care well into the future, and medical experts can attest to the estimated costs of your future treatment.
- Lost earnings – Injuries might keep you from working for days, weeks, or even permanently. Most people who miss significant work also miss out on significant income, and this can quickly impact your household budget. You can seek past lost wages, as well as the estimated future income you will lose if your injuries prevent you from returning to your previous job at all.
- Pain and suffering – You should never underestimate the physical pain and suffering your experience due to serious injuries. Pain can wear on you and prevent you from enjoying your life as you once did. While you cannot prove the value of your pain and suffering with bills or other documents, there are calculations that insurance companies and personal injury lawyers use to determine how much your intangible pain and suffering is worth.
- Mental trauma – Being the target of road rage can be a traumatic experience, and some people even suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result. PTSD can have debilitating effects, and you might need psychological treatment, medication, and other care to overcome your trauma and fears after a road rage incident.
In addition to damages that directly compensate you for your losses, road rage lawsuits might also involve punitive damages. Under Florida law, punitive damages might be appropriate when clear and convincing evidence indicates that the defendant driver engaged in gross negligence or intentional misconduct. Gross negligence means the driver’s conduct displayed a conscious indifference to the safety and life of others.
Road rage is not a mere mistake behind the wheel, as it is a dangerous and injurious choice that drivers make. This can qualify as conduct worthy of punitive damages. Punitive damages do not stem from your specific losses but instead, focus on punishing the liable driver to deter future misconduct.
The right car accident lawyer will know when it is appropriate to seek punitive damages in a road rage accident lawsuit. This is often a contentious matter that might need to go before a jury. You want to have an experienced litigator handling your claim who will not settle for less than you deserve, and who will not hesitate to seek punitive damages if they should apply in your case.
Find the Right Florida Auto Accident Lawyers For Road Rage Cases
If you are dealing with serious injuries, medical care, and possible psychological treatment for PTSD or related conditions, the last thing you need is another concern on your plate. Navigating the legal process can take time, energy, and resources that you likely do not have, so you want to have the help of a skilled attorney as soon as you can.
The sooner you have an injury lawyer fighting on your side after a road rage crash and injuries, the better protected your legal rights will be. Injury victims regularly seek legal help to obtain compensation from a negligent driver for their medical bills and other losses.
You don’t have to spend your time fighting with a hostile insurance company that refuses to pay for intentional injuries caused by an aggressive driver. Let a car accident accident attorney fight for you so that you can focus on making the best recovery possible from your injuries.
Florida also has a strict time limit for car accident injury lawsuits, which might be necessary in a road rage case. Do not delay in finding the right legal help for your road rage accident claim.