Liability When Racing on Public Roads
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been discussing the laws surrounding speeding and slow driving in Georgia, namely statutes 40-6-181 and 40-6-184. Today, we’re going to be moving on to another type of traffic law violation that often goes hand in hand with speeding: drag racing.
If you’re just now joining us, the reason we’re discussing the Georgia traffic code on a blog about civil law is that the traffic code is basically just a set of safety rules. Having a strong understanding of relevant safety rules can be extremely helpful in civil cases, because breaking a safety rule is considered inherently negligent behavior in court. When someone has broken a safety rule, it’s not necessary to argue about whether that person was behaving “reasonably” or not. They weren’t, by definition, which makes establishing liability that much simpler. This concept is called negligence per se.
So, let’s take a look at statute 40-6-186 and how negligence per se applies to drag racing accidents.
What Is Drag Racing?
As defined in statute 40-6-186, a drag race is any competitive test of speed or acceleration involving two or more vehicles on public roads. It doesn’t matter whether the vehicles are racing directly against each other in real time, or taking turns driving the same route and then comparing their speed records after the fact. Both drag racing methods are recognized as such under the law.
(a) As used in this Code section, the term:
(1) “Drag race” means the operation of two or more vehicles from a point side by side at accelerated speeds in a competitive attempt to outdistance each other or the operation of one or more vehicles over a common selected course from the same point to the same point for the purpose of comparing the relative speeds or power of acceleration of such vehicle or vehicles within a certain distance or time limit.
Legally, racing doesn’t even have to involve a starting line or a finish line, and it can be intended as a test of the vehicles’ capabilities, the skill of the drivers, or both.
(2) “Racing” means the use of one or more vehicles in an attempt to outgain, outdistance, or prevent another vehicle from passing, to arrive at a given destination ahead of another vehicle or vehicles, or to test the physical stamina or endurance of drivers over long-distance driving routes.
Two or more drivers might be competing to see who can reach a certain location first, or who can drive the farthest without a break, for example. Even a pair of strangers forcefully trying to overtake each other with no prearranged terms of engagement could be considered racers under the law.
Is Drag Racing Always Illegal?
Yes. Many legal questions have complicated answers, but this is not one of them. Competitive driving is 100% illegal on public streets.
(b) No person shall drive any vehicle on a highway in this state in any race, speed competition or contest, drag race or acceleration contest, test of physical endurance, exhibition of speed or acceleration, or for the purpose of making a speed record, and no person shall in any manner participate in any such race, competition of speed, contest of speed, or test or exhibition of speed.
Most drag races involve other forms of lawbreaking as well, especially speeding and ignoring traffic control devices, but even if the participants agree to observe all applicable traffic laws during their competition, the act of racing itself is still illegal.
What Are the Consequences of Drag Racing?
Whether or not there’s an accident, racing on public streets can earn everyone involved a misdemeanor conviction on their criminal record.
(c) Any person convicted of violating subsection (b) of this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
It doesn’t need to be proven in court that the racers made any kind of formal arrangement with each other; just maneuvering in a way that suggests racing or coordinated recklessness of any kind is enough.
Of course, if a drag race causes as accident, as they often do, the consequences can be even more severe. On top of the potential injuries to the racers themselves, any racer who hurts a bystander is financially responsible for the damages under negligence per se.
What Damages Can You Recover After an Accident with a Drag Racer?
Collisions between drag racers and non-participants are usually fairly clear-cut instances of negligence per se. If you’ve been injured by a drag racer, either as a pedestrian or a non-racing driver, you’re entitled to compensation for your special and general damages, which we’ll explain in further detail below.
Accident-Related Expenses Qualify as Special Damages
Most people who seek legal representation after being injured in an accident are primarily concerned with covering their medical expenses. A fair special damages settlement should fully reimburse all accident-related medical bills, both present and future, as well as any other financial losses you’ve suffered as a result of the accident. Common examples include vehicle replacement and lost productivity at work. To recover special damages, you’ll need thorough documentation of each expense, as well as a skilled attorney who can predict and explain your likely future expenses, and prove that each expense was directly or proximately caused by the racer’s negligence. To learn more about how the Wetherington Law Firm establishes direct and proximate cause, click here.
Accident-Related Emotional Losses Qualify as General Damages
Surviving a traffic accident takes a toll on more than just your bank account. That’s why we have general damages settlements in addition to special damages. This extra sum, on top of the direct reimbursement for your expenses, is intended to help compensate for your pain, psychological trauma, wasted time, and damage to your quality of life. Due to the priceless nature of emotional losses, exact figures for general damages can be much harder to settle on, so your lawyer’s skill will be even more essential to this part of the process.
What If the Drag Race Cost Lives?
If you’ve lost someone to an accident with a drag racer, your case is one of wrongful death rather than personal injury. The compassionate attorneys at the Wetherington Law Firm are available around the clock to discuss how we can help you find justice for your loved one. If you’re considering a wrongful death suit, we also recommend familiarizing yourself with some of the basic rules that accompany this kind of case.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
In addition to helping you make your losses and their causes understood in court, a good attorney can also guide you step by step through this often-intimidating process, and protect you from pitfalls and predatory insurance company tactics. Insurance company legal departments are well-oiled machines designed for the sole purpose of minimizing payouts. Even answering what seems like a simple question from an insurance company representative can cause irreparable damage to a legitimate case, if you don’t know what tricks to watch out for. When you work with the Wetherington Law Firm, you have an expert on your side to handle these interactions for you and make sure you’re not cheated.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
At the Wetherington Law Firm, we believe our job is to get you the compensation you deserve while protecting you and your family from the financial hardship that car accidents can so often cause.
We know that getting your doctor’s bills paid won’t do you any good if you just end up trading them for even bigger lawyer’s bills instead, which is why we work on a contingency basis. We accept payment only as share of the settlements we win for our clients. There are no deposits, no hourly fees, and we’ll never, ever leave you saddled with fresh debt just for pursuing justice.
To talk to a lawyer about your case today, just give us a call at 404-888-4444, or fill out the contact form on the right for a free consultation.
The Wetherington Law Firm’s Passion for Justice Goes Beyond Our Client’s Cases
When you’ve been hurt, sometimes you want more than for someone to make it right. Sometimes what you’re really looking for is some assurance that the same thing won’t happen again. If you believe what happened to you was part of a bigger problem that needs addressing, you’ve come to the right place. With your permission, we’ll leverage your case to create the kind of lasting change you’re dreaming of. For example, if street racing during deliveries or travel is part of the corporate culture of a business operating in your area, we’ll investigate their training policies and motivational techniques, for the purpose of putting a stop to any illegal and dangerous practices. To learn more about how we’ve helped our clients make the world a better place, just reach out and ask!