Road Rage Impacts Safety on California Highways, But May Also Affect Your Auto Accident Injury Case

About a decade ago, a software company published an advertisement that caught the eye of the so-called “Netizens,” countless online spoofs were made, and an Internet meme was born. Both the original ad, and the spoofs that it inspired, concluded with the line, “It’s more likely than you think.” The same, unfortunately, can be said for road rage: it’s more likely than you think. According to the AAA News Room, almost 4 in 5 drivers have, at some point, engaged in aggressive driving or exhibited substantial amounts of rage while behind the wheel.

Road rage can have many effects on drivers and passengers. One of those effects is potentially to create an emergency on the road. One possible impact (among many) of that emergency is to change the legal assessments regarding who is, or is not, at fault in the vehicle accidents that occur as a result. If you’ve been injured in an accident where another driver was engaging in road rage or aggressive driving, then you should reach out promptly to a knowledgeable Oakland injury attorney to find out more about the compensation to which you may be entitled.

J.S. was driver involved in such an accident and who ended up in court. As he was heading southbound on the 101 freeway, he passed an on-ramp where three cars sought to enter the freeway. One car, a black vehicle, was driven by a driver who allegedly exhibited the classic traits of road rage. The driver allegedly tailgated the woman in front of him and then flipped an obscene gesture as he whipped around her into the #3 lane of the freeway. The woman, according to her testimony, merged into the same lane behind that driver, only to see the driver of the black car slam on his brakes. The woman mashed her braked and stopped in time.

J.S., who was behind the woman by that point, also managed to stop. A semi truck carrying a 16-ton load, who was behind J.S., could not stop his truck and crashed into J.S., forcing J.S.’s vehicle into the woman’s. The black car was not hit and did not stop, accelerating away on the southbound freeway.

So, if you find yourself in an accident like this and having suffered injuries as a result of the crash, what should you do? If a road-rage driver ahead of you caused a dangerous situation and you ended up rear-ending the vehicle in front of you, does the fact that you were the rear-ending driver mean you are automatically at fault and can recover nothing?

What is a ‘sudden emergency’ and how can this legal concept help me?

The answers to these questions are, in order: (1) contact legal counsel right away and (2) no, you are definitely not automatically at fault. As J.S.’s case showed, the law recognizes something called the “sudden emergency” doctrine. That principle says that, if a legitimate emergency that was sudden and unexpected takes place, if you did not cause that emergency, and if your conduct was “reasonable,” then you are entitled to invoke that doctrine. When that happens, you are not at fault; the driver who caused the emergency (the road-rager) is.

Now, imagine an accident like J.S.’s, where you are the third vehicle, trailing two other vehicles where one or both is engaging in unsafe aggressive driving. One of the drivers to come to a total stop in an area of road where vehicles normally accelerate because that driver engaged in a road-rage-fueled “brake check,” and you end up rear-ending the car in front of you. If that happens, then you may be able to recover from the road-rage driver, even though you were the driver who rear-ended another car.

If you have suffered injuries in a road rage-related vehicle accident, talk to the Oakland injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch. We have helped many drivers, passengers and pedestrians to get the positive results they deserve. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-1073 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

How You Can Continue to Pursue Your California Injury Case Even After the Jury Returns a Defense Verdict, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, Feb. 14, 2019

Singer/Songwriter Obtains $7M Judgment After Gas Tanker Rear-Ends Prius, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, March 27, 2018