What Is Aggressive Driving in Georgia?
Aggressive driving is defined in Title 40 of the Georgia Code. It is contained in the Section of the Georgia Code entitled “Serious Traffic Offenses.” The statute itself says that:
“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.”
When this happens, the motorist “shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.”
Note the use of the word “shall.” This means that when a Georgia driver is convicted of aggressive driving, he or she will be guilty of a higher level of crime. There is no room for a driver to be convicted of aggressive driving and be found guilty of a lower level of crime.
What Can Be Considered Aggressive Driving?
According to the statute, the following actions can lead to an aggressive driving charge and conviction:
- Drivers must pass on the left side. Unless otherwise specifically allowed, passing on the right is illegal and can be considered an indication of aggressive driving.
- Lane changes that are performed before the driver knows that it is safe to change lanes. In other words, the act of “running a driver off the road” when changing lanes may be aggressive driving.
- Tailgating another vehicle by following it in a manner that is not reasonable or prudent.
- Changing lanes from a position that is not appropriate or suddenly stopping the vehicle without a signal when there is an opportunity to signal.
- Driving a vehicle so slowly as if to impede traffic.
- There is also a list of prohibited offenses for motorcycle drivers that can be aggressive driving, including passing a vehicle in the same lane.
- Reckless driving is defined as driving “any vehicle with reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
How Does One Commit Aggressive Driving?
The statute says that aggressive driving requires that the driver have intent. This means that the actions are done on purpose and intentionally. Aggressive driving cannot be done accidentally. Intent can often be inferred by the driver’s actions and does not necessarily require an admission that the driver was intentionally committing those actions. A driver can be found to have done something on purpose without stating the words “I did it on purpose.” The only offense on the above list that does not require intent is reckless driving. The law regards acting recklessly in the same manner that it views acting intentionally.
Is Aggressive Driving a Civil Statute?
Aggressive driving is a criminal statute that will result in a punishment from the law enforcement authorities as opposed to in a civil court. In civil court, the same laws that apply to standard personal injury cases will apply to lawsuits where aggressive driving is involved. However, if one is convicted of reckless driving in an accident that causes injury to someone else, the conviction may be admissible in a subsequent civil trial.
The fact that someone has been charged with and convicted of reckless driving does not preclude them from being sued by someone who has been injured by their actions. Criminal and civil lawsuits are two completely separate legal actions. However, if a driver is convicted of aggressive driving, it is likely that they will also be found liable in a civil lawsuit if they are sued for the accident.
An aggressive driving conviction can also increase the possibility that a guilty driver will be assessed punitive damages by a jury. Punitive damages are generally assessed when the jury believes that the defendant has acted in a deliberately malicious manner. The intent necessary for an aggressive driving conviction can meet the requirements for punitive damages. In other words, a conviction for aggressive driving may mean that any damage awards in a court trial are increased dramatically.
What Are the Penalties for Aggressive Driving?
Drivers convicted of aggressive driving will have a criminal record. In Georgia, this is considered to be a misdemeanor. The punishment is up to 12 months in prison or a fine of $5,000 or both. The penalties will tend to be more severe if someone is hurt in an accident as a result of aggressive driving. Aggressive driving can also be charged along with other crimes such as driving while under the influence.
What Are Other Consequences of an Aggressive Driving Charge?
Aggressive driving may not only impact a criminal record, but can have profound impacts on one’s driving record. It may lead to a suspension of a driver’s license depending on how many points accompany the fine. It will certainly mean that a driver’s insurance rates will skyrocket if the insurance is willing to keep insuring the driver. Many insurance companies will cancel the policy of a driver who has been convicted of aggressive driving. Thus, getting a charge of aggressive driving reduced can have a serious impact on whether one can even keep driving a car.
What to Do If You Have Been Injured by an Aggressive Driver?
If you have been in an accident with an aggressive driver and suffered injuries, you may have a cause of action that can entitle you to substantial compensation. Since there is the possibility that there can be higher damages against the driver, it is best to retain a car accident attorney to help with any possible claim or lawsuit. Hire an attorney as soon as possible so that you are not left to deal with insurance companies on your own. Given the high damage costs that may be at issue, the other driver’s insurance company may go to any length to minimize their liability. Hiring a trusted car accident lawyer can help maximize the value of your claim.
What Laws Are Applied in an Aggressive Driving Accident Civil Lawsuit?
The same test of negligence that applies in an auto accident lawsuit will apply to an aggressive driving lawsuit. The main question will still be whether the aggressive driver breached their duty of care that they owed to the injured driver. If anything, aggressive driving will make it easier to show that the driver at fault did not act as an ordinary driver would under the circumstances.
If you have been injured in an accident with an aggressive driver, you will need legal representation. The attorneys at The Eichholz Law Firm have years of experience in dealing with all types of traffic accidents in Georgia, ranging from incidents that involve negligence to accidents where drivers have acted with reckless disregard for others on the road.
Call us today to learn how you can file an aggressive driving lawsuit against a negligent driver.