Every driver on any Virginia road has both a moral and a legal duty to uphold a basic duty of care behind the wheel. That duty is officially breached when an angry driver fails to behave calmly and decides to drive aggressively.
What You Need to Know About Virginia Road Rage Accidents
Drivers who relinquish control of their emotional state and engage in road rage are usually responding to some perceived slight. They may believe you weren’t driving fast enough, idled too long at a stop sign, were driving too close to their car, left your high beams on, etc.
Whatever the root cause, the driver loses their cool and decides to respond with dangerous or even outright illegal driving tactics. Aggressive driving behavior in these incidents can include:
- Changing lanes without leaving enough space or using a turn signal
- Driving outside the lane to pass on the right or box in traffic
- Failing to yield the right of way or preventing drivers from changing lanes
- Following too closely (tailgating)
- Ignoring stop signs or traffic lights
- Yelling, angry gesticulating, and excessive horn honking
There is a legal distinction between these aggressive driving habits, which are usually only considered traffic violations, and road rage, which is a criminal assault. Road rage takes the situation a step further and the assault often involves the vehicle itself, such as by tapping the back bumper of the vehicle ahead or colliding while attempting to race.
In other cases, the assault actually takes place after the vehicle has come to a stop. Drivers experiencing road rage may follow the focus of their anger and threaten the victim with a firearm or engage in an act of intentional physical violence.
How to Handle Road Rage Incidents and Protect Your Legal Rights
When upset drivers use their vehicle as part of a confrontation, it is all too easy for someone to experience life-altering repercussions. De-escalation is the best course of action when another driver is exhibiting reckless driving habits or engaging in road rage. A minor inconvenience in traffic isn’t worth dying over or suffering an injury with long-term consequences.
In situations where de-escalation doesn’t work and the other driver causes a collision or gets out of their car for a confrontation, here’s what you should and shouldn’t do:
- Do not approach or interact with the other driver during or after a road rage incident.
- Contact the police and allow them to communicate with the other driver and investigate the crash.
- Gather information from any witnesses who saw the road rage incident occur, but only when it is safe to do so.
- Photograph the damage to your vehicle, as well as any injuries you sustained, and anything in the environment that may have affected the collision.
- Seek out medical attention as soon as you leave the scene.
- Talk to an attorney as soon as possible.
An Attorney Is Necessary After Any Road Rage Injury
Everyone will eventually experience anger while driving. No one is perfect, and mistakes on the road will happen. What separates dangerously aggressive driving from everyday frustration is how that anger is managed. When a driver allows anger to blossom into road rage and causes an injury, you need the help of an experienced attorney to stand up for your legal rights.
Serious and potentially even permanent wounds are possible in road rage collisions or subsequent physical altercations. Documenting those injuries early and keeping a paper trail on how the accident impacted your life are both important steps in a successful personal injury case. Depending on the type of collision or assault that occurs during a criminal road rage event, you may end up dealing with:
- Broken bones
- Disfigurement or amputation
- Internal bleeding
- Soft tissue injury
- Nerve damage
- Spinal cord damage
- Traumatic brain injury
Depending on the circumstances, the at-fault party who caused your injury may face criminal penalties after the road rage incident. While that may prevent the aggressor from causing further harm in the future, that doesn’t actually help in your financial recovery. You’ll still need to recover damages for your medical bills and others costs either through an insurance payout or by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
The help of an attorney with knowledge of Virginia traffic laws and experience in road rage cases is a necessity to successfully recovering the full compensation you deserve. While the at-fault party tends to be readily obvious in a road rage case, you still need an attorney’s help to gather and present evidence of your injury and prove how it was caused. The case may also involve acquiring additional evidence if the at-fault party was a commercial driver on the job for a trucking company, rather than someone in a passenger vehicle.
A proficient lawyer is also critical in dealing with insurance adjusters to negotiate a settlement, while still potentially filing a personal injury lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires. In particular, victims of road rage injuries can seek compensation covering:
- Costs from medical bills
- Future medical costs if you need surgery or therapy in the months or years ahead
- Pain and suffering from emotional trauma such as PTSD, anxiety, or depression
- Wages lost during your recovery period, as well as lost earning potential if you can’t work in the future due to the injury