Road Rage Accident Claims in California
Angry drivers are not in short supply across the United States, but the crowded streets and freeways of California seem to bring out the violent and aggressive behavior known as road rage. In fact, at least 80% of American motorists admit to having felt road rage within the last year. There seems to be something about being behind the wheel and sealed off from others within the frame of the car that disarms some drivers’ normal social filters and makes them more susceptible to extreme anger and frustration.
While “road rage” is a pop culture term, it does have legal implications when aggressive driving behavior causes harm to others. It is important for drivers to know how to handle their road rage and what to do if they encounter enraged motorists. Handling the situation properly could help prevent a serious car accident and potential injuries.
What Is Road Rage?
The term “road rage” is used to describe a hostile state which can lead a driver to commit a violent criminal action, or to drive recklessly and without regard for the safety of others. Road rage can include behavior that is meant to make others fearful or to provoke them into confrontation. This can include assault with a motor vehicle or another dangerous weapon by the driver or passenger of one vehicle against the driver or passengers of another vehicle.
Aggressive driving and road rage have a clear legal distinction: Aggressive driving is a traffic offense while road rage is a criminal offense. Although aggressive driving is not always considered road rage, it can quickly escalate to that level.
What the Law Says About Road Rage
Road rage is against the law. Drivers should never allow anger to control their driving behavior. When driving a vehicle becomes an expression of a person’s anger or frustration, accidents happen, and people get hurt and die. Extreme road rage behaviors—those in which a driver uses a vehicle as a weapon or means of harming others—can constitute assaults, attempted manslaughter or other such violent crimes.
Even when driver anger does not target a specific person or vehicle, road rage can also constitute reckless driving, defined under California law as any driving behavior that endangers people and property on a public highway or interferes with other driver’s use of a public highway unreasonably. This behavior can include giving rude gestures, verbal insults, and physical threats. It can also include a motorist driving dangerously towards another driver to intimidate him/her.
Vehicle Code 13210 CVC is the California statute that enables the DMV to suspend a motorist’s driver’s license for engaging in road rage behaviors. The section states that “the suspension period…[for] ‘road rage’ shall be six months for a first offense and one year for a second or subsequent offense.”
Reckless driving can include the following actions, all of which can constitute signs of road rage:
- Following too closely (tailgating)
- Ignoring traffic signals/failing to yield
- Changing lanes frequently or failing to signal
- Chasing other vehicles
- Cutting off other vehicles
- Brake-checking other vehicles by coming to a sudden, unexpected stop
- Distracted or impaired driving
Similarly, signs of aggression behind the wheel often include:
- Flashing headlights
- Verbal threats and threatening behavior
- Getting out of a vehicle or attempting to get out
- Displaying a weapon or weaponized items, such as guns, baseball bats, heavy objects
What Are the Signs of an Angry Driver?
Angry drivers may intentionally hit another car or threaten other motorists with physical harm.
The Insurance Information Institute lists some critical signs of a driver with road rage, including the following:
- Yelling, excessive honking or using inappropriate gestures
- Tailgating or following too closely
- Swerving between lanes, cutting off other vehicles and blocking them from changing lanes
- Speeding or racing other vehicles
- Failing to yield to traffic lights, traffic signs or other drivers
- Passing on the shoulder or where prohibited
Road-Raging Drivers Also Face Civil Liability
Road rage does not just subject drivers to criminal penalties. A driver in a state of road rage who causes an accident will also face legal liability for the harm the accident causes.
Broadly speaking, this liability may include the obligation to pay compensation to accident victims for:
- Medical bills, including the costs of doctor’s visits, hospitalization, emergency room visits and transportation, surgery, diagnostic tests, prescriptions, medical devices, and more.
- Wages lost from missing work or an inability to return to work because of accident-related injuries.
- Property damage caused by the road rage-related crash
- Pain and suffering caused by the injuries inflicted by the road raging driver
- Loss of life enjoyment and damage to personal relationships resulting from the accident injuries
- Punitive damages in the event a judge or jury finds the road rage behavior constituted willful and wanton conduct.
Every road rage accident has its own unique facts, so there is never any guarantee that the damages above will apply in any particular case. Speaking with an experienced motor vehicle accident injury attorney is the best way to figure out the type and amount of damages you might have the right to recover after a road rage-related crash injures you.
Safety Tips for Avoiding Road Rage Drivers
The scariest thing about road raging drivers is that you do not know what they might do. Staying safe from their conduct requires trying to keep a cool head about you, and practicing defensive measures to keep yourself out of harm’s way. Do not ever engage with an angry driver. Many of us tend to react to unexpected acts of aggression by getting our backs up and responding in-kind. Behind the wheel, it is critical not to allow your emotions to get the best of you that way. If a road-raging driver targets you, DO NOT ENGAGE. Ignore that driver. Do not yell back. Do not retaliate. Do not gesture. Look straight ahead and do your best to tune that driver out, for your own safety.
Get out of the way and distance yourself if possible. A road-raging driver has lost control. Give that driver’s vehicle the same wide berth you would give a car tumbling end-over-end. In other words, get out of the way and put distance between your vehicle and the road rager’s. Slow down. Pull off at the nearest exit. Let the driver around you.
Once you have gotten to safety, call 911. Road rage is illegal and a road raging driver represents a serious hazard to you and others on the road. Do your part and report that driver’s conduct to the authorities right away, before the driver hurts you or someone else.
Always Seek Medical Attention
After any accident, road rage-related or otherwise, seek medical attention immediately. Do not rely on your own assessment of your injuries. Do not assume that just because you feel fine that you are, in fact, fine. Only a doctor can examine you and diagnose your condition. Some harm, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal cord injuries, and internal injuries, may not show symptoms immediately and can prove fatal if not treated quickly.
Follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations. Keep a record of medical visits and the treatment recommended. Following this advice will not only protect your health, it will also generate important records that may prove useful in seeking compensation for your injuries.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
If you have been injured in a serious accident that was caused by a road raged driver, you may be able to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The injured accident victim must be able to show that the at-fault driver violated a traffic law or rule of the road—or that the other driver failed to drive in a safe and prudent manner. Moreover, the accident victim must be able to show that the injuries and damages sustained were a direct result of the accident, as opposed to some other source. An expert medical provider, such as a treating doctor or medical specialist, may be able to relate your pain, symptoms, and injuries to the accident, providing a legal basis for monetary compensation.
Evidence to Prove Road Rage
Road rage victims need to prove their injuries were a result of the negligence of the other driver. Evidence of road rage/negligence could include:
- Witness Statements – If there were any witnesses around at the time of the crash who are willing to provide a statement to you or your attorney, it could go a long way in building a case against the at-fault driver.
- Police Report – You should always call the police after an accident. This is especially important for road rage accidents, as you do not know what emotional state the other driver may be in. For your safety, it may be best to remain in your vehicle and call the police.
Legal Consultation After Car Crash Head Injuries
Our attorneys have experience conducting thorough investigations to determine how an accident happened and who all the liable parties may be. Our goal is to recover the maximum compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.
If you sustained a concussion after a motor vehicle accident that was due to road rage on the other party’s fault, you may be entitled to money for your hospital bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. A personal injury lawyer can evaluate the circumstances surrounding your case and gather the appropriate evidence to support your claim in court.
If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury and have questions about seeking legal action, call us now at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your options. A free consultation is just a phone call away.