Woodland Hills Personal Injury Attorney Barry P. Goldberg must separate out aggressive driving from “road rage” on a regular basis. The term “road rage” is often confused with “aggressive” driving. Understanding the difference between ‘aggressive” driving and “road rage” is important when deciding what claims to pursue.
What is Aggressive Driving?
Aggressive driving is intentional behavior that results in an unintentional accident causing harm. Aggressive driving typically includes accidents where the offending motorist was tailgating, not signaling when changing lanes, racing other cars on the roadway, speeding generally or to beat a traffic signal, or conducting erratic lane changes. I call these drivers “bad neighbors!”
What can you recover from an aggressive driver?
As in any accident case, proving negligence of the offending motorist is key to recovering in an aggressive driver suit. A negligence cause of action requires that the offending motorist owed a duty of care to the harmed person, that the offending motorist breached that duty, the motorist’s conduct caused the person’s harm, and there are in fact damages present.
Duty – the motorist must owe a duty to the person harmed by his or her conduct. Generally, motorists on roadways and highways owe a duty to other motorists to act prudently and reasonably under the applicable driving circumstances. Since driving circumstances often vary, establishing a motorist’s duty of care is fact specific.
Breach – the motorist must have breached that duty owed to the harmed person. For example, a motorist would breach his duty of care to another motorist if they were driving erratically and over the speed limit to get to a meeting on a rainy day, and subsequently crashed into you.
Causation – the motorist’s actions must have caused the harm. Two forms of causation must be present: (1) the motorist’s actions must be the actual cause of the person’s harm, such that the person would not have been harmed but for the motorist’s actions; and, (2) it must be foreseeable that the motorist’s conduct would be harmful. For example, it would likely not be foreseeable that driving the speed limit of 65 mph on a Los Angeles highway on a clear day with light traffic would cause an accident, but driving that same speed limit on the highway during an intense downpour may.
Damages – the injured person must actually have damages, such as personal injuries and/or property damage. Personal injuries include past or future medical and rehabilitative expenses, lost wages or reduction of earning capacity, or past and future pain and suffering. If a motorist’s conduct was clearly willful, wanton or reckless, then the harmed person may be entitled to punitive damages, which are above and beyond the normal damages awarded. However, most negligence cases do not reach these types of damages because such conduct tends to be unintentional rather than intentional.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a serious motor vehicle accident due to aggressive driving of another motorist, then it is critical to hire an experienced personal injury attorney that can conduct a sufficient investigation to determine if the at fault motorist was negligent.