Road rage is defined as just that, a driver’s uncontrolled anger that manifests in dangerous behavior on the road. Sometimes the anger is provoked because of the behavior of another driver, and sometimes different life stresses result in a driver’s anger boiling over on the road. Road rage is a type of aggressive, careless driving with the added factor that the behavior is fueled by aggression, anger, rage, or violence. While you can be considered an aggressive driver under Florida law even if you were not driving while angry, road rage accidents are some of the most dangerous because the driver is typically so blinded by anger that he or she cares little for the safety of others on the road. If a road rage accident changed your life, you are entitled to the compensation you deserve.
Aggressive Driving in the United States
It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of all traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving, including road rage, and the following are reported to be the most common aggressive driving maneuvers witnessed by United States’ drivers:
- Following too closely;
- Improper or erratic lane changing;
- Illegal driving on shoulders, sidewalks, or medians;
- Prohibited and dangerous passing and merging;
- Sudden and erratic speed changes;
- Failure to yield right of way;
- Failure to obey traffic control devices and signs;
- Driving too fast and/or racing; and
- Making improper turns.
Overall, it is reported that speeding is the leading cause of fatalities as related to aggressive driving crashes, and it is often the culprit if you were involved in a road rage accident. If another driver is racing down the highway, tailgating you, or driving erratically as the result of anger, he or she may make minor contact with your vehicle at high speed, forcing your vehicle to careen off the road, or you may find it necessary to quickly maneuver your car to the shoulder in order to avoid an aggressive driver.
Florida Law and Aggressive Driving
The Florida traffic code criminalizes “aggressive careless driving,” even if the other driver did not make contact with your vehicle, you may still be able to hold the owner and operator liable for any damage to your vehicle, your injuries, and/or your lost wages. In Florida, “aggressive careless driving” is legally defined as committing two or more of the following acts simultaneously:
- Exceeding the speed limit;
- Improper or unsafe lane changes;
- Following too closely;
- Failure to yield;
- Improper passing; and
- Violating traffic control devices and signs.
Aggressive driving is actually easier to prove that distracted driving sometimes, as video footage or eyewitness accounts of a driver surpassing the speed limit or weaving between lanes can establish aggression. Further, if a driver was traveling well over the speed limit, an expert witness can often calculate the speed of the vehicle based on the damage sustained to the cars and skid marks.
Recklessness v. Negligence
When a car accident occurs and the injuries are serious enough to merit litigation in Florida’s courts, the legal theory on which the case is typically based is called “negligence.” This essentially means that the driver who caused the accident was not acting with the care he or she should have when operating the motor vehicle, but this could be as simple as looking at his or her phone for a moment and getting in a low speed rear-end accident. More often than not, the actions taken by an angry driver qualify as aggressive, careless driving and as such, you can hold the other driver negligent as a matter of law for causing your injuries. Although aggressive driving clearly qualifies as “negligence,” because Florida’s lawmakers have taken time to single out and report such behavior, shouldn’t there be something more if the driver injured you as a result of a road rage accident? There is.
There is a concept of law called “recklessness,” and it can even be considered a felony in Florida. Because reckless driving, which often includes aggressive, careless driving, is defined as when a person is guilty of willfully disregarding the safety of others with a “dangerous weapon,” i.e., the motor vehicle, you may be able to seek what is known as “punitive damages” at trial for an accident caused by road rage. In personal injury litigation that is not based on a theory of recklessness, you are only entitled to direct compensation for your injuries, such as medical bills and lost wages, in addition to compensation for pain and suffering. If the driver was driving recklessly as a result of road rage, however, you may be entitled to an additional award of damages meant to actually punish the defendant for endangering your safety and the safety of others. This award is above and beyond that which can be obtained in compensation for your pain and injuries. Typically, if you are awarded $100,000 indirect compensation for your injuries, pain, and lost wages, the jury may award you an additional $100,000 in punitive damages because of other driver’s anger.
Contact a Clearwater Road Rage and Personal Injury Attorney Today
Road rage accidents are terrifying. When anger blinds a driver to reason, he may have a narrowed focus such that he is not paying attention to traffic conditions, and you may be injured as an innocent bystander. If you or a loved one was injured in a road rage accident involving an aggressive, careless driver, you are entitled to extensive compensation if another driver was so careless as to completely disregard your life and safety. The Dolman Law Group has the premier personal injury and aggressive driving attorneys in the greater Tampa Bay area, and they have experience fighting for your right to compensation with the insurance companies and reckless defendants. Contact them today online or at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation if you were injured by a crazy driver. They can analyze the facts of your case and conduct an investigation to determine whether you may be entitled to punitive damages as well as economic compensation.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765