Coming across a road rage driver on the streets of Wisconsin can be a terrifying experience. Road rage can happen to anyone, anywhere. An encounter with an aggressive and reckless driver can occur in city centers like Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Eau Claire, and Wausau or along rural roads or long stretches of highways such as the I-90, I-94, or I-41. Road rage incidents are not only scary, but they can also result in injuries or even the death of innocent victims.
What Is Road Rage?
At its core, road rage is behavior by a driver or drivers on the road exhibiting anger or frustration. Anything can trigger an impatient or angry driver to act aggressively when they perceive a problem with another driver or the conditions of the roadways.
For example, road rage incidents can involve multiple drivers who engage in these behaviors or be a one-sided affair. Either way, when any driver engages in road rage acts, they involve all other vehicles and drivers in their vicinity and put others at risk of harm due to their negligent and reckless actions.
Wisconsin is no stranger to road rage. In some cases, the actions of road rage drivers are extreme and life-threatening. The state has seen a recent uptick in road rage incidents, and some refer to the state as having one of the country’s highest rates of road rage violence.
Current studies indicate a rise in shootings due to road rage across the state and the country. However, shootings are not the only way a driver can exhibit road rage and endanger lives when behind the wheel.
Common behaviors of a road rage driver include:
- Gesturing or yelling at others
- Verbal or physical threats
- Changing lanes aggressively, cutting drivers off
- Blocking another driver’s path
- Exiting the vehicle
- Approaching a vehicle to confront occupants
- Slamming on brakes
- Ramming or nudging a vehicle
- Abrupt and unexpected maneuvers through traffic
Is Road Rage Illegal?
There is no question that shooting another person because of road rage is illegal and a serious criminal offense in Wisconsin. However, what about when a driver’s actions are not as extreme but still clearly fall under road rage? Although Wisconsin does not have a statute that specifically refers to road rage, it does have traffic laws that make it illegal for a driver to engage in dangerous behaviors that could put others at risk.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation defines aggressive driving as a driver that operates a vehicle in any manner that “endangers or is likely to endanger people or property.”
The Wisconsin statutes relating to traffic laws use this same language to describe reckless driving as a traffic law offense.
Although no statute specifically refers to road rage, most road rage behaviors would fall under one of the various traffic law violations. For example, the statutory language for reckless driving encapsulates most of the common behaviors a road rage driver would engage in. Any time a driver endangers the lives of others on the road, it is illegal.
What Can You Do if You Are a Victim of Another Driver’s Road Rage in Wisconsin?
Road rage is illegal, but if the police are not present when it is occurring, the offender may continue to act in this manner and endanger those near them. If you find yourself in a situation where a driver is behaving aggressively towards you or others on the road, there are some steps you can take to try to minimize the danger and get help from the authorities.
Call the police and inform the dispatchers of the road rage driver and location. It is possible the driver will flee before the police arrive, but you can provide identifying information about the vehicle, such as the license plate and description of the driver/car involved.
If a driver is acting aggressively towards you and you feel threatened, you should do your best to avoid further confrontation. Do not engage in any conversation or get out of your vehicle under any circumstance. Try to find a safe location to await the police or drive to the nearest station if you are being followed and feel in imminent danger.
The Danger of Aggressive Drivers on Wisconsin Roads
Aggressive drivers that engage in road rage are more likely to cause an accident and, in turn, injuries to other travelers on the roadways. It is impossible to quantify how many road rage incidents occur on the roads. Road rage happens daily, and on a short morning commute, you may encounter multiple examples of road rage from other drivers. Most times, road rage flies under the radar because unless a violent altercation or accident results from it, the victim is likely not to report it to the police.
Road rage is a common factor in the events leading up to many motor vehicle accidents. In most instances of road rage leading up to an accident, an officer may cite the offender with reckless or aggressive driving. Studies by the NHTSA determined in approximately 56 percent of car accidents with fatalities, aggressive driving behaviors played a factor in the accident.
What Happens if the Road Rage Driver Causes an Accident?
When road rage ends in an accident, the road rage driver may be to blame for your injuries and damages. Road rage alone is illegal and could lead to an officer issuing a ticket to the road rage driver for their behavior, or if the behavior was especially egregious such as threats or violence, then the officer may arrest the culprit.
Regardless of the criminal nature and any possible charges that arise from a road rage driver’s action, you can hold them liable for any injuries or damages they cause because of their negligence leading to an accident. Under civil law, a person who acts negligently and causes harm and loss to another may be responsible for compensating the victim in accordance with their damages.
Can You Seek Compensation for an Accident Stemming From Road Rage?
If you suffer any harm and damage to your vehicle after a road rage incident with an aggressive driver, you can seek recovery of your losses against the at-fault driver.
In most cases, your first option for seeking compensation after a road rage accident can be through an insurance claim through the at-fault driver’s vehicle liability insurance policy. A road rage accident attorney can help you to prepare and file a claim on your behalf.
Road rage accidents can lead to trouble in the insurance claims process if an insurer attempts to dispute liability for the accident or challenges the victim’s version of the events.
A lawyer can help you gather the evidence and information necessary to negotiate with an insurer to settle in your favor. However, if there is a disagreement as to liability or the amount of your damages, a lawsuit may be necessary.
If your attorney determines a lawsuit is a possible option in your case, you may need to go to trial to fight for compensation for your losses in your case. Most road rage accident cases will settle, but it is not a guarantee, and it is worth keeping in mind that sometimes going to court might be your best legal option.
Common Injuries to Victims in an Aggressive Driving Accident
Road rage accidents can result in serious injuries to a victim or possible death. If a road rage driver’s actions are criminal, a road rage incident’s victim could face unexpected injuries apart from that of the motor vehicle collision.
Examples of injuries from a road rage accident could include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones or fractures
- Strained or torn ligaments, muscles
- Bruising or contusions
- Internal damage
Possible Damages Available to a Victim After a Road Rage Accident
The amount of compensation the law may entitle you to after a road rage accident depends on the devastation caused by the crash. Your injuries, the medical interventions necessary for your care, and the impacts of the injuries on your day-to-day life, such as your ability to work, are all considered when calculating damages from a road rage accident.
Figuring out the damages you deserve can present many challenges. Going through an insurance claims process without knowing your maximum damages can put you at a disadvantage, as you may settle the case for significantly less than your actual losses. However, a road rage accident attorney can calculate your damages and negotiate with an insurer to try to get you the maximum compensation possible.
Does a Statute of Limitations Apply to a Road Rage Accident Claim?
There is a timeframe for which you must file legal action for any damages you intend to claim arising from a road rage accident. In Wisconsin, the law generally allows a plaintiff only three years from the date of an accident to file a lawsuit in court for their losses. If the act was intentional, it could be even less than three years, so you should talk to an attorney to help determine if your accident may require you to act in a shorter timeframe than the general 3 years.
While three years sounds like a long time, you should not wait to contact an attorney to represent you. It takes time to prepare a claim properly, negotiate with insurers, and go over your best options for monetary recovery after an accident. If you suffer any injury in a crash that occurs because of another driver’s road rage, you should act quickly to protect your legal rights.
What Can You Do If You Are in a Road Rage Accident?
A road rage accident can make you feel frustrated and disheartened. After all, it is an entirely preventable situation that escalates because of another driver’s negligent and reckless behaviors. After a road rage accident, there are things you can do to protect your legal rights and attempt to get the compensation you may need to pay for your medical bills and car repairs and compensate you for your missed work and other damages.
Gather Any Evidence You Can
While you never want to provoke a road rage driver, you do want to gather any evidence available to you safely. The biggest danger of a road rage accident is that the driver will flee. Gathering information such as the license plate number, description of the driver, and vehicle can help protect you if the driver flees.
Under no circumstances should you attempt to restrain or block a road rage driver from leaving after a crash, as that will likely only heighten the threat to you.
As you recover from your injuries, you can take the time to gather records of the accident you may have available to you, such as photographs, medical records, police reports, statements, or contact information of witnesses. This evidence can help you as you move toward filing a claim for your losses.
Continue With Your Medical Care
If you suffered any injury, you likely visited a hospital or urgent care center for the immediate attention of and treatment of your road rage accident injuries. However, that initial hospital visit is likely insufficient to adequately care for your injuries.
Ensure you follow your medical provider’s orders, make any follow-up appointments recommended, and follow all instructions and procedures to help you reach the maximum possible recovery of your injuries.
Insurance companies will not look positively at missing appointments or skipping out on treatments and may try to lessen the compensation available to you if they discover evidence of interference with medical care and progress.
Contact a Wisconsin Road Rage Accident Attorney
If you are a victim of a road rage accident and suffer injuries and damages, a road rage accident attorney may be able to help you fight for compensation. Even if the police charge the other driver for their actions and give them a ticket or arrest them, that process will not get you compensation for your medical bills and other losses. If you hire a car accident attorney, they can assist you in filing an insurance claim for your road rage accident damages or a lawsuit if needed.