Few experiences are more frustrating than dealing with a “bad” driver. Maybe it’s the person in the left lane doing 5 mph below the speed limit with a blinker on, or the driver who keeps creeping up on your tail, only to fall back and do it again. Maybe it’s bumper-to-bumper traffic in the city, or a driver who keeps swerving in and out of lanes. Or maybe you’re simply having a bad day.
The urge to yell, curse and shake your fist behind the wheel may be strong, but there are some drivers who go beyond simple insults. Road rage is real; it is aggressive, angry driving, and the results of these behaviors can be deadly.
We recently addressed increased numbers of road rage incidents in Atlanta, but that is not the only city in Georgia reporting more incidents. The Chatham County Police Department (CCPD) Chief, Jeff Hadley, told WTOC that road rage incidents have occurred 5x more frequently in 2021 in the Savannah area than in 2020: “CCPD officers have investigated 16 road rage cases in 2021, where drivers have either brandished or actually fired a gun at another driver.” In the beginning of December, two of these incidents involved firearms. One driver shot a truck with a BB gun, and another driver pointed a gun at someone who “stole” a parking spot at the local Walmart.
If you are injured by another person in a road rage incident, you have options. Harris Lowry Manton LLP has successfully handled road rage claims on behalf of injury victims. In one case, partner Steve Lowry secured a $4.8 million jury verdict on behalf of a Kennesaw, Georgia family who were shot at while traveling home on I-95 from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
What are examples of road rage?
Any aggressive behavior can be classified as road rage, including yelling or making obscene gestures. Each of these behaviors is dangerous, because a driver with road rage is hyper-focused on the driver who has supposedly “wronged” him or her in some way, instead of on the road.
Some behaviors, however, are especially dangerous to others:
- Purposely cutting off another driver
- Purposely hitting the bumper of another car
- Purposely slamming on the breaks ahead of a driver
- Purposely trying to block a driver from entering another lane
- Forcing a driver into a different lane
- Getting out of the car to confront a driver or individuals
- Brandishing and/or firing a weapon
In each of these scenarios, it is safe to assume that the goal of the person experiencing road rage is to cause you harm, and that the person is acting deliberately to do so. This is why, in some cases, road rage-related crashes may lead to criminal charges for the instigator as well as a civil lawsuit.
What kinds of damages can I seek in a road rage crash?
In any car accident, you can seek damages for economic losses, such as your medical expenses and lost wages. You can also seek damages for non-economic losses, including pain and suffering and loss of consortium.
In road rage wrecks, however, you may also be entitled to punitive damages. Under the law, punitive damages “may be awarded only in such tort actions in which it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.”
The typical cap for punitive damages ($250,000) may not apply in a road rage case where someone suffers an injury.
What if someone dies as a result of a road rage incident?
If your family member is fatally injured by a driver with road rage, two types of lawsuits may apply:
- Wrongful death claims. Family members can file a wrongful death claim to recover damages for loss of financial resources as well as loss of emotional support.
- Estate claims. These claims are brought by the estate of the person who died. They typically cover medical and funeral bills, but may also include damages for pain and suffering if the victim survives for even a short period of time before succumbing to his or her injuries.
What should I do if another driver is behaving aggressively toward me?
Per CCPD Chief Hadley, you should call 9-1-1 and alert the police if another driver is acting aggressively. He advised: “try not to react or put yourself in danger.”
If you can safely exit the situation – for example, if a driver is tailgating you and you can move into another lane – you should try to do so. However, if the driver with road rage is pursuing you, call the police and ask for help.
Harris Lowry Manton LLP has secured millions of dollars on behalf of car accident victims throughout Georgia. We know how to build a case on your behalf if a driver with road rage causes your injuries. To schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation, please call our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847 or our Savannah office at 912-417-3774. You can also complete our contact form.
One of the nation’s top trial attorneys, Jeff Harris is an award-winning litigator who handles high-profile, complex cases across a wide variety of practice areas. He excels at securing justice for clients who have been seriously injured or killed, holding responsible parties accountable for their actions as well as their negligence.
Read more about Jeffrey R. Harris here.