Operating any type of vehicle aggressively creates unnecessary risks for other people on the road. Aggressive driving by truckers poses even greater risks, considering the size and weight of their vehicles. Some truckers drive aggressively to meet deadlines set by trucking companies, or to make up time if they have been delayed on a route by traffic congestion. Other truckers may drive aggressively due to extreme stress or other emotional or psychological problems, which may be exacerbated by the excessive fatigue that is common in their industry. Alcohol or drug use may contribute to aggressive driving as well.
Examples of Aggressive Driving
Right-of-way violations at intersections or highway ramps
Weaving or improper passing, such as using the shoulder of the road to pass
Tailgating a passenger car
Sometimes aggressive driving escalates to road rage, which involves intentionally violent actions toward someone else on the road. A road rage incident may not extend beyond words, gestures, and honking, but it can be dangerous if it turns physical. If a truck driver gets angry with a driver of another car, they might try to strike their car, force them out of their lane, or even force them off the road. Drivers of other cars should do their best to avoid a confrontation with a truck driver to the extent possible. Ignoring road rage is usually the safest strategy.
Liability for Truck Accidents Caused by Aggressive Driving
If a driver of a passenger car notices that a trucker is driving aggressively, they can contact the police. Some trucks display the contact information of the trucking company, allowing people to report aggressive behavior by a truck driver to their employer. Trucking companies have a strong reason for wanting to know about aggressive driving. They can potentially be held liable to victims of accidents caused by their drivers.
To prove liability after an accident caused by aggressive driving, a victim would need to prove that the defendant was negligent. This means that they failed to use reasonable care under the circumstances. Virtually all types of aggressive driving would be considered unreasonably dangerous. If a trucker violated a traffic law or regulation, they may be automatically deemed to have acted unreasonably. The victim also must show that the accident was a direct and foreseeable result of the aggressive driving.
In addition to the driver, the trucking company that employed them often may be held accountable. If the company failed to properly vet the driver during the hiring process, for example, it may have overlooked a history of aggressive driving. A trucking company also may be liable if it failed to respond to reports of a driver behaving aggressively. Even if they were not directly at fault, employers may be indirectly liable for the careless actions of their employees while they are on the job.
Indirect Liability and Road Rage
Indirect liability may not apply to an incident of road rage, since employers are generally not accountable for assault or other intentional wrongdoing by an employee.
Compensation for Aggressive Driving
The main form of damages in truck accident cases involving aggressive driving is known as compensatory damages. These are meant to compensate the victim for their economic and non-economic harm. Economic damages account for medical bills, lost income and earning capacity, the costs of future treatment, and any other out-of-pocket costs incurred by the victim. Non-economic damages account for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other intangible harm.
If aggressive driving turns into road rage or other egregious misconduct, a victim also may be able to recover punitive damages. These are often awarded when a defendant acted with extreme negligence, a reckless disregard for the safety of others, or criminal intent. Punitive damages may be substantially greater than compensatory damages. They are meant to deter the defendant and people or entities like them from engaging in similar conduct.