What Car Accident Lawyers Know About Road Rage
November 04, 2021
Road rage is a serious problem on American roadways. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, aggressive driving is a factor in as many as 56 percent of all fatal crashes. Some of these incidents even involve intentional murder committed with a firearm.
The majority of road rage incidents, however, involve drivers who allow themselves to be overcome with frustration and drive in an unsafe manner. These incidents lead to thousands of deaths, injuries, and accidents every year. In addition, accidents cause billions of dollars worth of injuries and property damage.
Injury victims need to hold negligent drivers accountable for road rage to recover compensation for themselves and deter other drivers from engaging in these behaviors. Fortunately, car accident lawyers know how to hold negligent drivers accountable and protect an injury victim’s legal right to fair compensation for all their injuries and financial losses.
What is Road Rage?
Many different behaviors can qualify as road rage. Tailgating, honking, and speeding are often some of the first signs of aggression a driver will show. Drivers sometimes flash headlights to intimidate other drivers or bully them out of the way. An aggressive driver might also change lanes frequently, weave in and out of traffic, or run red lights. Aggressive driving can quickly escalate into overtly dangerous behavior.
You might deescalate a situation by getting out of the driver’s way. These early warning signs give other drivers a chance to remove themselves from a dangerous situation, but that is not always possible. In some cases, an enraged driver will quickly escalate to potentially deadly behaviors.
These can include:
- Forcing other drivers off the road
- Intentionally ramming another vehicle
- Making threats of immediate violence
- Pulling a gun on another driver.
These and other forms of aggressive driving can put other drivers at risk of serious injury. Passengers are also at risk – including any children who might be in the vehicle. Every other road user in the area is also at risk because they can be in any resulting crashes.
Prosecutors take road rage seriously because of these risks. Cars are dangerous, and drivers who fail to check their own emotions while driving can cause serious injuries and death to multiple victims.
Road Rage Statistics in Florida
According to the Insurance Information Institute, aggressive driving was a factor in more than half (56 percent) of all fatal car accidents in the U.S. over five years. This works out to more than 20,000 preventable deaths.
Excessive speed was the most common problem. (Even if accidents do not involve road rage, speed is a factor in about one out of three car accident fatalities in the U.S.) Traffic congestion was also one of the most triggers of aggressive driving behaviors.
ABC Action News reported that Florida had led the nation in road rage deaths in recent years. Florida had 277 documented cases of road rage in a recent three-year period. Texas – the next highest state – only had 220 during this time. These figures do not even represent the total number of road rage incidents in the U.S.
Law enforcement agencies usually do not designate road rage cases, so researchers must code this data from other factors (such as incidents involving guns). Florida also led the nation in road rage deaths involving guns: twenty victims were shot and killed in those three years, while another sixty were injured.
So why are there so many road rage incidents here in Florida? The Polk County Sheriff told ABC Action News that Florida’s booming population is driving tempers out on the road. Psychologist Nydia Conrad agrees: according to Dr. Conrad, studies have shown that incidents of impulsive and aggressive behaviors increase as a population increases. This is just one more risk factor for road rage that drivers must be aware of.
How to Stay Safe in Dangerous Situations
Road rage often results in extremely unsafe behaviors. Drivers who engage in road rage are responsible for the consequences of their actions and must pay for the damage they cause. Road rage is not the victim’s fault. Nonetheless, there are certain things that drivers can do to avoid dangerous situations. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety issued the following tips for staying safe when confronted by an aggressive driver.
Never engage an aggressive driver.
Aggressive drivers are usually trying to win. Whether they want to be the fastest car on the road, or pull ahead of everyone else, or simply get into a faster lane, there is a goal, and other drivers are obstacles to that goal. You do not have to be part of the contest. Slow down and let the aggressive driver pass you. Give them plenty of space, so you can safely avoid any traffic situations the aggressive driver may cause. Remember: it is not a contest. Staying safe is more important than “winning.”
Check your own emotions.
It is easy to allow another driver to trigger you. You likely feel frightened, or angry, or threatened. These are normal reactions to a dangerous situation. It is okay to feel these emotions, but you cannot allow them to affect your driving. Stay calm. Get as far away from the aggressive driver as possible and continue about your business.
How Does an Accident Lawyer Prove Fault for a Road Rage Accident?
It is not always clear exactly what happened in a road rage accident. Even if there is physical damage where the cars collided, this does not prove who said what or who the initial aggressor was. Injury lawyers know how to prove what happened in any type of car accident case. Below are just a few of the many types of evidence that can help to prove liability.
Witness statements can be incredibly helpful in proving what happened and what aggressive behaviors occurred first. Often a witness is a passenger in one of the involved vehicles. Their statements can be useful, but insurance companies sometimes view a passenger’s statement as biased. They assume that a passenger will be on the side of the driver they were with.
Insurance companies are more likely to accept the word of a bystander who has no connection to either driver. These witnesses are neutral because they don’t have a reason to support one driver over the other. Insurance companies assume that these neutral witnesses are more likely to tell the truth about what happened.
#2. Police Reports
Another neutral source of information is the law enforcement officers who respond to the scene. Again, insurance companies assume that these are unbiased witnesses because an officer responding to an accident does not generally have a reason to support one driver over the other. Their reports stem from the facts they observed.
In many car accident cases, the police report is the most persuasive piece of evidence in the entire case. This is why it is so important for car accident victims to call 911 to respond to the scene. Even if you do not feel hurt, you will still want a law enforcement official to document what happened. A law enforcement official can also arrest a driver who has committed a crime (such as threatening another driver with a gun).
#3.Photographs and Video Footage
Photographs and videos of an accident scene can help prove what happened. In road rage cases, it is also important to see video footage leading up to the accident to see what behaviors caused the crash. Injury lawyers can locate security footage from nearby businesses, official traffic cameras, and other sources. In the digital era, almost everyone carries a camera with them at all times. This makes it easier to take photographs and video footage of an accident scene – or the events leading up to a crash.
#4. Physical Evidence
There is a huge amount of physical evidence at the scene of a collision. Skid marks, debris in the road, paint transfer, and other physical evidence can help prove what happened in a collision. Unfortunately, much of this evidence gets cleared within an hour or so of when a collision occurs. This is why it is so important to hire an injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident occurs.
As soon as a lawyer is on your case, they can take steps to preserve evidence that you might need in your case. They can request security footage from local businesses. They can locate a damaged vehicle to photograph it before repairs happen. It is also important to act before the insurance company deems a vehicle a total loss. Once the owner signs over the title in exchange for payment, the totaled vehicle might quickly go to auction. Crucial evidence can be lost if your lawyer does not have access to the car before it is gone forever.
#5. Expert Witnesses
The evidence from an accident scene can be compelling, but only if your lawyer can prove what it means. This is why injury lawyers work with carefully selected expert witnesses. An accident reconstructionist has expert knowledge in physics and engineering, which they use to recreate the accident. Their report is persuasive to an insurance company or jury. In a road rage case involving a gun, your attorney might hire a weapon or ballistics expert to prove when and how the driver fired the gun. All of this information helps prove when a driver’s road rage caused the accident.
Expert witnesses are not only used to prove who was at fault for causing an accident. In many cases, an insurance company will accept liability and agree to pay for the victim’s losses but dispute the amount of those losses. An injury lawyer might have to hire medical experts to testify about the extent of the victim’s injuries. If the insurance company disputes a lost wage claim, both sides might hire vocational experts to determine the victim’s ability to work with their injuries.
All of these reports are crucial evidence that proves the value of a personal injury claim. If the insurance company does not accept an expert’s report in settlement negotiations, they can be evidence at trial. The jury then gets to decide which side’s expert witnesses are the most credible.
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