O.C.G.A. 40-6-397 – Aggressive Driving
Posted by Wetherington Law Firm | Articles
Proving Negligence After a Car Wreck in Georgia: Aggressive Driving Is Negligent Driving
The term “aggressive driving” gets thrown around a lot, but few people are aware of its legal definition, or even that it has one. Being decisive and moderately assertive on the road can be necessary for getting around safely and effectively, and the word “aggressive” is sometimes casually used to describe these skills in a positive way. True aggressive driving, however, is dangerous, illegal, and automatically renders the driver negligent should someone get hurt.
In this blog series, we’ve been discussing negligence per se — the concept that breaking a rule intended to protect the public is an objectively negligent act — and how it applies to civil liability in case of car accidents. This week, we’ll cover O.C.G.A. § 40-6-397, which deals with the true meaning of aggressive driving.
What Is Aggressive Driving?
Legally speaking, aggressive driving refers to any kind of driving intended to hurt, scare, or even bother another person.
40-6-397. Aggressive driving
(a) A person commits the offense of aggressive driving when he or she operates any motor vehicle with the intent to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another person, including without limitation violating Code Section 40-6-42, 40-6-48, 40-6-49, 40-6-123, 40-6-184, 40-6-312, or 40-6-390 with such intent.
(b) Any person convicted of aggressive driving shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.
Aggressive driving behaviors can include everything from tailgating to unnecessary braking to speeding up when another driver attempts to enter your lane. Driving maneuvers that qualify as aggressive often break other laws as well, but they don’t have to. Intentionally ramming someone else’s car, for example, is obviously both aggressive and illegal no matter what. Flashing your lights at another car, on the other hand, can be legal if it’s done to send a friendly message like “your lights are out,” but illegal if it’s done as a threat or a blinding tactic.
Is Aggressive Driving the Same Thing as Reckless Driving?
Technically, no. Reckless driving is driving that displays a general disregard for the safety of others, but it need not be intended to cause harm or distress to anyone in particular. Aggressive driving is driving that displays aggression toward a specific person or people, whether that’s another driver, the passengers of another car, or a pedestrian.
Speeding down the highway at 100 miles per hour is reckless, but not necessarily aggressive. Shouting slurs, obscenities, or threats at someone in another vehicle while otherwise following the rules of the road is aggressive, but not reckless. Aggressive and reckless driving can happen concurrently, however, and either one is enough to qualify as negligence per se, making the driver liable for any harm their aggressive or reckless actions may cause.
What Damages Can a Victim of Aggressive Driving Recover?
When aggressive driving leads to an accident, there’s a good chance that the aggressor has violated multiple rules of the road. Following too closely, stopping suddenly, and making unsafe or unannounced lane changes are common, doubly illegal ways that aggressive drivers lead to collisions. Even if the aggressive driver does nothing but threaten, and the victim gets into an accident due to fear or distraction, the aggressor is liable under negligence per se. Be aware, however, that a victim who has also broken laws or displayed a lack of care during the events leading up to an accident will generally be found to share the fault. When suing for personal injury under Georgia law, the defendant must be found at least 51% responsible in order for the plaintiff to receive a settlement, and the amount may be reduced depending on the plaintiff’s level of responsibility.
You May Be Eligible for “Special” Damages to Cover Your Expenses
Settlements for personal injuries are divided into “special” and “general” damages. Special damages cover those things that have easily calculable monetary values, such as medical expenses, missed work, or destroyed property. After an accident, it’s important to track every related expense carefully, as you’ll need to provide proof in order to receive compensation. You’ll also need to prove that those expenses were directly or proximately caused by the defendant’s aggressive driving. To learn more about proving direct or proximate cause, click here.
You May Also Be Eligible for “General” Damages
Whereas special damages can cover anything with a price tag, general damages cover everything else. Traffic accidents and their aftermath are painful and stressful, and there’s no way of quantifying exactly how big a settlement is necessary to make up for that. If your injuries will result in lifelong disability or force you to miss out on things you enjoy, there’s obviously no amount of money that can truly make things right, but it’s the role of a good lawyer to make sure that gap is narrowed as generously as possible.
What If I’ve Lost a Loved One to an Aggressive Driver?
In that event, your case will be classified as wrongful death instead of personal injury. If money can’t make up for pain and disability, it most certainly can’t make up for death, but pursuing a wrongful death claim can still be helpful for easing death-related financial hardships, as well as setting an example to help prevent similar deaths in the future. You can learn more about wrongful death cases here.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
A skilled lawyer can be the difference between winning the real settlement you need to put your life back together, or getting stuck with an insurance company’s first lowball offer. We know the law, we know the common points of confusion and contention, and we know the traps and how to avoid them. Many people are also self-conscious about admitting to others how much pain they’re in and how much help they need. That’s where having a passionate advocate to speak for you can do a world of good.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
Too often, legal disputes are determined by who has the most money available to throw at the case. That’s not how it works at the Wetherington Law Firm. We take cases on a contingency basis, which means the only payment we accept is a portion of the settlements we secure for our clients. You don’t pay anything up front, you don’t pay at all unless we win, and you never have to worry about ending up worse off than you started.
To talk to one of our skilled lawyers about your case and what we can do for you, just reach out by email or phone for a free consultation.
You Can Make a Difference for Others by Working with the Wetherington Law Firm
Do you believe that what happened to you is indicative of a larger problem? If you want to pursue justice for more than just yourself, we’ll support you, even if it means a smaller financial reward or a tougher battle. If the aggressive driver who injured you drove professionally, for example, we’ll help you fight for change in their employer’s training policies. We believe strongly in the power of litigation to make the world a better place, sometimes more than one client at a time, and we love working with clients who feel that way as well. To learn more about how you can help others with your case, give us a call today!