Road Rage in Charlotte: Intentional Tort or Negligence?

The Charlotte Observer reported recently that a police detective with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department fatally shot a driver after the motorist allegedly stepped out of his car with a firearm in an apparent display of road rage. The decedent was identified as a 28-year-old, and the detective was reportedly serving in an undercover capacity.anger

The incident occurred around 1:15 p.m. when a vehicle with two occupants side-swiped the unmarked vehicle driven by the undercover detective, who was stopped in traffic on Albermarle Road. The reportedly at-fault driver then continued without stopping, prompting the detective to pull behind the car and follow him, police reported. The detective notified dispatch and requested assistance from a marked unit. While he was on the line with dispatch, the suspect reportedly stopped his vehicle directly in front of the detective, exited his vehicle and displayed a firearm. Detective, perceiving that he was in imminent danger, fired his own gun and struck the suspect, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Although the outcome of this road rage incident is unique, what is unfortunately not uncommon are the instances in which aggressive driving and road rage result in serious injury or death to others. One AAA study released mid-2016 revealed nearly 80 percent of motorists polled expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage while driving in the last year. That suggests about 8 million drivers in the U.S. engaged in the most extreme examples of road rage, which includes intentionally ramming another car or exiting a vehicle to confront another motorist.

Among the behaviors drivers admitted to engaging in within the last year:

  • Intentionally tailgating – 51 percent
  • Yelling at another driver – 47 percent
  • Honking out of anger or annoyance – 45 percent
  • Making angry gestures – 33 percent
  • Trying to block another vehicle from making a lane change – 24 percent
  • Intentionally cutting off another vehicle – 12 percent
  • Getting out of a vehicle to confront another motorist – 4 percent
  • Ramming/ bumping into another vehicle intentionally – 3 percent

Two in three drivers reported that aggressive driving is a larger problem today than three years ago, while 90 percent say aggressive driving is a serious threat to their own personal safety.

Although liability in these cases may seem straightforward, such cases actually require the assistance of an experienced injury lawyer. That’s because insurance companies will often try to assert that they should not cover the damages because their policies are intended to cover “accidents,” not “intentional torts.” This is not to say that the driver couldn’t still be found personally liable for an intentional tort, but collecting on such a claim could be tough because you are limited to that individual’s personal assets, as opposed to an insurance policy limit.

Typically, negligence is defined as a failure to use the kind of reasonable care a prudent person would. Meanwhile, acts of road rage may be considered “intentional,” and the insurance company will use this to try to wiggle out of paying the premium for personal injuries their insured caused. Injuries caused by intentional acts can be very difficult to pursue successfully unless you hire an experienced attorney who is well-versed in the intricacies of insurance law and the different types of coverage and compensation options available.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

CMPD fatally shoots one person in east Charlotte in ‘road rage’ incident, Jan. 26, 2017, By Joe Marusak, The Charlotte Observer

More Blog Entries:

Study: Pedestrian Accidents Are a Major Problem in the South, Jan. 23, 2017, Charlotte Road Rage Injury Lawyer Blog

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