Aggressive driving is one of the biggest dangers on the road. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speeding is responsible for a third of all traffic deaths. In one year alone, speeding resulted in over 20,000 accidents in New Jersey. Fortunately, the law gives the victims of aggressive drivers the right to compensation for any injuries.
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Speeding in New Jersey
Speeding is extremely common in New Jersey; in 2018, New Jersey police issued over 170,000 speeding tickets. In 2016, speeding was a factor in 79 of New Jersey’s 570 fatal car accidents. However, while speeding is a violation of traffic laws that can lead to a ticket, courts will not automatically deem a speeding driver at fault for a car accident. Anyone injured by a speeding driver will need an attorney to make their case.
There are a number of ways to prove that speeding was a factor in an accident. Witnesses might be able to testify that a driver was speeding shortly before a crash. Traffic cameras or GPS data can also provide fairly clear proof that someone was speeding. Forensic specialists can reconstruct the circumstances of an accident and determine the speed of a driver based on physical evidence like skid marks on the road, the amount of damage to the vehicles involved, and whether or not airbags deployed.
Exactly how to prove that a driver was speeding depends on the facts of the case and the evidence available. Experienced personal injury lawyers know how to gather up all the relevant information and make the strongest case possible under the circumstances.
Proving that a driver was speeding helps show that the driver was negligent and, therefore, at fault for the accident. However, other factors are relevant as well, such as whether the other driver was also driving carelessly. Ultimately, the jury decides who is at fault, and violations of traffic laws like speed limits are just one piece of evidence for fault. This is why it’s important to have a skilled lawyer help to make one’s case.
What Is Aggressive Driving?
Aggressive driving is any deliberate and unsafe driving behavior that puts others on the road at risk. Common forms of aggressive driving include:
- Running red lights
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Cutting off cars
- Blocking other cars from changing lanes
Unfortunately, aggressive driving is extremely common. According to a survey by AAA, millions of drivers engage in aggressive driving every year. These behaviors are involved in 56% of all fatal accidents over a four-year period.
In the event one is injured by an aggressive driver, it’s important to get help from a personal injury attorney. While many aggressive driving behaviors are illegal and would be enough to justify the police pulling the driver only, that does not mean a court will automatically find the aggressive driver at fault for an accident. It is still necessary to prove a case against the aggressive driver.
For example, in Doornbos v. Wehrle, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court overturned a $2.6 million verdict against a driver who hit a motorcyclist while making an unsafe left turn. The court reasoned that the instructions to the jury allowed them to automatically find the driver liable if they found he violated the law in making an unsafe left turn, when they should have only considered an unsafe left turn one piece of evidence for negligence. This case goes to show that both drivers’ conduct is relevant to determining who is at fault: the fact that one driver broke a traffic law does not automatically mean they are at fault.
What Is Road Rage?
Road rage is an extreme form of aggressive driving caused by feelings of anger. Driving on New Jersey’s heavily trafficked roadways can be frustrating, and many people take their frustration out on other drivers. Road rage is such a big problem in New Jersey that the state passed Jessica’s Law, which creates severe criminal penalties for those who injure others in road rage incidents.
However, criminal penalties for road rage don’t compensate the victims for either their injuries or damage to their vehicles. For that, road rage victims usually need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney.
An important question in any road rage case is whether a road rage driver caused injury intentionally or by accident. While intentional injuries can lead to higher damage awards, car insurance doesn’t cover intentional injuries. For example, in Hammer v. Thomas, the court held that an injured driver’s uninsured motorist coverage did not cover a collision with a driver who intentionally veered over the double yellow line to strike his car head-on.
As a practical matter, it’s often a better idea to accuse the raging driver of negligence so that the driver’s insurance policy will be available to pay the claim. Obviously, this does not work in cases where the driver got out of the car and engaged in violence, but if the case involves a vehicle collision, a negligence claim may be plausible. A personal injury lawyer can examine the facts of an incident and determine whether it’s a better idea to claim intentional harm or negligence.
What Happens if I’m in an Accident with an Aggressive Driver?
Every car accident carries the risk of personal injury as well as damage to one’s car. For minor accidents, car insurance might be enough to cover the damage. But if an accident is severe, a person can be left with serious injuries causing lasting pain or disability and requiring a lot of medical treatment. If this is the case, the only way to get adequate compensation is to file a lawsuit.
In any personal injury lawsuit, the court will determine each party’s contribution to liability for the accident. Any compensation will be reduced by the person’s fault. For example, if a car accident victim is found to be 30% at fault, he or she will receive only 70% compensation for injuries. In New Jersey, anyone more than 50% at fault for an accident can’t receive compensation through a lawsuit.
For example, in Hynes v. Gibson, a driver tapped his brakes to warn a tailgater to back off. After the tailgater switched lanes and pulled up alongside the driver, the driver raised his middle finger at him. Once they stopped at a stoplight, the tailgater got out of his car, broke the driver’s window, then stabbed him with the tool he used to break the window. Despite the tailgater’s intentional violence, the jury still found the driver 48% at fault for the incident and significantly reduced his award.
Case Study: $21 Million Award
What makes this case unique: Defense witness testified in favor of plaintiff; judge was a former Attorney General who had lost a substantial case to Mr. Rosenblum years earlier; Appellate Court actually increased the award amount.
Frequently Asked Questions
Aggressive driving is extremely common behavior with many potential causes. It may be a result of road rage, or just impatience.
The car insurance companies for the drivers involved in the accident will investigate. Most of the time, the insurance company for the driver at fault will agree to a settlement. If the insurance companies don’t agree on who’s at fault or refuse to settle for an adequate amount, it is necessary to have a trial, where a jury will decide who is at fault.
Depending on the severity of their behavior, aggressive drivers might get tickets. If they cause a serious accident, they may face criminal penalties. However, tickets and criminal charges don’t compensate injured victims. Those victims will need to file a lawsuit for personal injuries.
Who Should I Contact if I’ve been Injured by an Aggressive Driver?
If you or a loved one has been injured by an aggressive driver, contact Rosenblum Law for a free consultation today. Our experienced personal injury lawyers can guide you through the process and get you the best settlement or verdict possible. Call 888-815-3649 or email us today.